Bird of the Week: This Frog
Behold: a tiny tropical frog that HURLS itself into the AIR with the kind of gusto and grace that any bird lover has no choice but to respect.
Here at Bird of the Week, our mission is to honor the world’s most glorious avian species, from the cute to the chaotic to the carnivorous—and everything in between. This week, by “everything in between,” we mean a frog. Before you start calling fowl (hehe), just look at this frog!
Okay, sorry, sorry, that photo (while stunning), is not going to do this guy justice. Let’s go to the tape(s):
Ahhh! Computer, ENHANCE.
This, my friends, is the Wallace's flying frog, also known as the Abah River flying frog, gliding frog, or parachute frog. It’s named for the biologist and naturalist Alfred R. Wallace, and as you can see, it’s a perfect little beast.
The Wallace’s flying frog lives in the jungles and rainforests of Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and even all the way out on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. It’s small but mighty, stretching to a max of about 4 inches long, with gangly limbs and webbed toes that work like mini hang gliders, allowing the amphibian to sail through the sky. The skill is super handy for the Wallace’s flying frog, as it lives almost entirely in trees, and likely leaps and "flies" in part as a means of avoiding predators (mainly snakes). They, in turn, nosh on insects.
While yes, these flying frogs aren’t technically flying, it can’t be stressed enough that they are catching mad air relative to their body size, traveling as far as 50 feet or more in one leap. Can you imaging jumping off a tree and soaring 150 times your body length?!?!?!?! The BRAVERY.
If that face reads more like “yo, it’s chill” and less like “ahhhhh I can’t FLY, why did I jump off this TREE???” it’s because the Wallace’s flying frog has padded toes that help make its landings soft and cushy. (As our friends at Defector recently noted, not all frogs are so successful.) Their toes also look like cabbage leaves to me, which is very cute.
And I gotta say, I’m admittedly a sucker for old academic illustrations but this one is a good reminder that aliens live among us and they are in fact frogs.
While it sure isn’t easy being green, it’s all good because the Wallace’s flying frog isn’t only green! Its belly and limbs are calming shades of white and bright yellow, and the webbing on its toes have dramatic splashes of deep black. Someone give this color story to a sports team!
The Wallace’s flying frog is actually one of several “flying frogs,” including the gliding leaf frog (also known as the gliding tree frog), which were captured in all their glory on an episode of Planet Earth. It’d be gross negligence to not include this video in a post about flying frogs, so please enjoy. I suggest full screen and volume up.
Truly, nothing but respect for these tiny dudes who looked around and said, “water and land aren’t enough for our species, we’d also like to take to the skies.” Get you a creature that can do it ALL. It’s awe-inspiring, really. No thoughts just vibes as you fly through the humid jungle skies with webbed feet and a prayer. I’m honestly considering incorporating the video above into my meditation practice.
In conclusion: If it looks like a frog, flies sort of like a bird, and is generally awesome, it might just be your Bird of the Week. And a hat tip goes to New York’s American Museum of Natural History, who turned us on to this perfect bird! Thank you!