If you’re trying to attract more frogs to your yard you’ll know that offering food is always a great way to do this. But what do frogs eat in the wild?
Frogs are carnivores which means they eat a variety of insects, small mammals, other frogs, fish, and crustaceans. Frogs are opportunistic eaters and will eat anything that fits into their mouths. Tadpoles will start on a diet of algae and plant matter, then move on to a carnivorous diet as they mature.
So frogs don’t just live off of insects, they have a varied diet. This will vary a lot depending on the frog species, their environment, food availability, and the seasons.
This guide will take you through a frog’s diet in the wild and how this can help you to attract them, or even keep them out of your yard.
Sound good? Then let’s go.
What Do Frogs Eat In The Wild?
Insects make up a large part of a frog diet. All frog species will eat insects. However, the type of insect will vary dependent on their size and environment.
Small frogs will eat smaller insects such as aphids, ants, fruit flies, and gnats. Large frogs will eat larger insects such as grasshoppers, worms, moths, beetles, and spiders.
Frogs that mainly live in water will eat aquatic insects such as mayflies, dragonflies, caddisflies, and their larvae.
Although frogs like to eat insects they don’t eat as many as you think. Depending on the species frogs can eat 2-100 insects each day. The number will depend on the size of the insect and the size of the frog. Species like the cricket frog are on the higher end of that number and will eat more insects than the average frog each day.
Frogs are mostly active at night and need to catch small insects in the dark. For this frogs use their excellent peripheral vision and motion detection skills to find insects. In fact, frogs have superior night vision which keeps them successful at hunting insects.
A frog will quickly flick out their long sticky tongue to capture any insect in its path. The speed a frog does this leaves no time for an insect to escape before being eaten.
Insects provide frogs with a good volume of proteins and fats that they need to stay healthy. Although insects are low vital levels of calcium that frogs need. That means frogs need to find this vital nutrient from other food sources.
2. Algae & Vegetation
Tadpoles and young frogs do have the ability to catch insects or other animals to eat. They need to grow by first eating plant life. For tadpoles, this is the algae in the water they are living in.
Tadpoles will only eat algae for a week or two.
As the tadpoles are able to move around a bit more the baby frogs will advance on to eating plants and root vegetation. These will normally be plants in or near the water shores. Tadpoles will generally eat the softer parts of the plants.
Baby frogs don’t eat plants and vegetation for very long. They will quickly move on to eating small insects. These can be easily caught as they are eating the plants.
If a tadpole does have good algae or plant supply to eat, then they won’t develop into adult frogs.
3. Other frogs
Frogs are cannibals and will eat other frogs if they get the opportunity. As a general rule, this will be a larger frog eating a small frog.
Rival frog species that live in the same environment as also known to eat each other. This is likely due to reducing completion over habitat and food sources in the area. The frog can detect the other species by listening to their calls.
Invasive frog species also have higher rates of cannibalism than other frogs. This is how they survive and are able to dominate smaller and more docile species of frogs.
Young tadpoles are another common target for frogs to eat. This will normally be frog tadpoles from another species of frog in the area.
4. Small Animals
Frogs are opportunistic eaters and if they get the chance to eat a suitably sized animal they will. Great targets for frogs are small animals such as mice, lizards, snakes, and baby turtles. If it fits in the frog’s mouth, then it’s fair game for them.
Usually, frogs that eat small animals are larger frog species such as:
- Goliath frogs
- Pacman frogs
As a general rule if the frog is large enough and the prey is small enough any frog will try to eat a small animal.
Frogs generally don’t have teeth to chew small animals. Some species have teeth but these are used for holding only prey rather than chewing them.
That means that any small animal that a frog catches is swallowed and digested when it’s alive. Although that sounds like a long slow death the animal normally dies quickly. This is usually by suffocation, strangulation, or being crushed as soon as they are in the frog’s jaws.
5. Fish & Crustaceans
An aquatic frog will survive on any small animals available to them in the water. That means they eat fish as a good source of protein. Small fish such as freshwater guppies, minnows, and mosquitofish are common choices. That’s because these are small enough for frogs to eat and they are available in large numbers.
Crustaceans are another great source of pond life that frogs like to eat. Small Crabs, shrimp, and crayfish.
Crustaceans provide frogs with a good amount of calcium in their diet that they don’t get from insects.
Frogs will catch and eat fish and crustaceans in the same way they do with small mammals.
Larger frogs have very big appetites and need to eat and many meat sources as they can. Some larger frogs will happily eat a bird if they are able to catch them unsuspecting near the water.
Bird-eating frogs will usually have fanged teeth to clamp the birds down quickly for the kill. As with other food that frogs eat, it will normally be a large frog eating a smaller bird.
Although old or maimed larger birds may fall prey to hungry frogs that will attempt to eat them.
In the USA the bullfrog is the largest frog species. These are large enough to eat birds and will happily eat them if they get the chance. Bullfrogs are able to eat birds as big as a starling. So any smaller songbirds are easy enough for bullfrogs to eat too.
Tress frogs are in a unique position to have easy access to bird nests as they climb. Larger tree frogs will raid nests and eat any unprotected hatchlings.
Most frog species are carnivorous which means they rely on a diet made of meat or insects. Yet there is a species of tree frog that eat fruit. This is thought to be an evolution of the species to help them survive in environments where food sources are scarce.
The Izecksohn’s Brazilian tree frog is the only known fruit-eating frog in the world. This frog will eat small fruits and berries whole. They don’t have the ability to chew into fruits and may eat leftover scraps that other animals have eaten.
When fruit is not available for these tree frogs, they will eat insects just like other frogs do.
There Indian green frog is a frog species that are not known to eat fruit but will eat plant vegetation.
8. Frog Skin
Frog drink and breathe through their skin. That means their skin is pretty crucial to their survival.
It’s important that a frog’s skin is kept moist enough to allow oxygen to pass through. If a frog’s skin dries out the frog will suffocate.
To keep its skin as fresh as possible a frog will shed its skin once a week. Once the old skin is off, the frog will eat the skin.
It sounds gross but it’s a great way for frogs to get a good source of nutrients and proteins that are in the old skin cells.
Frog skin is a good source of calcium for frogs too.
Do Frog eat dead bugs?
Frogs are not scavengers, they will not eat dead bugs or dead animals they come across. Although frogs will eat injured animals that are still living.
Frogs will only eat prey that is moving and won’t recognize dead animals as a food source. That means that even if dead animals or bugs are available a frog may still starve to death if it can’t eat living prey.
What do frogs eat in winter?
Frogs will go into an inactive period called brumation over the winter months. As cold-blooded animals, they need to do this to survive the cold winter conditions.
Although frogs don’t eat during the coldest winter days, they may go foraging on milder days. During these foraging periods, frogs will eat any source of insects or small animals they can find. Frogs won’t eat dead or frozen prey.
A frog will start to emerge from this period of dormancy around late January or February.
Frogs are mainly carnivores and will eat a range of living prey including insects, fish, birds, and small mammals. They are opportunistic eaters and will eat food sources they can capture and fit in their mouths. That means their diet will vary depending on their size and what’s available in their environment.
Frogs are not scavengers and will not eat dead bugs or animals that they come across. Although they will eat old and injured animals if they get the opportunity.
You won’t see frogs much over the winter as they have periods of hibernation to survive the cold. Yet, they do have short periods of foraging where they will eat anything they can find from their usual carnivorous diet.