‘El Coquí’ – Puerto Rico’s Little Frog

If you visit Puerto Rico you will find that each evening the air becomes alive with the sound of song. However, this unique and alarmingly loud croaking sound does not come from a bird. It comes from a pretty little frog barely bigger than the average person’s thumbnail. Known as a coquí, it is clear that Puerto Rico’s little frog was named for its sound. It must have taken quite some time for early inhabitants of the country to figure out that such a big noise was coming from such a tiny creature.

The coquí is a small frog averaging roughly 36mm in length from mouth to feet though the female may be somewhat larger than the male. Its body is only about 15mm long and its head is somewhat wider than its body. As is normally the case with frogs, the coquí feeds on insects which fly near enough for it to catch. However the coquí is quite different from other frogs in a number of ways. For one thing, it does not have webbed feet, but instead fingerlike toes which assist it to climb trees and shrubs. Another aspect in which it differs is that of its young which do not have a tadpole stage. Indeed, when the male sees fit to help the young coquí hatch, fully formed little frogs about the size of an ant come hopping out and quickly make their way to nearby water. The coquí is able to change the shade of its skin to help it blend into its surroundings and while the female lays the eggs it is the more attractive male who watches over them and helps them to hatch. The male does not ‘sing’ while watching over its young.

This interesting little creature has long played a role in the workday of the average sugarcane worker. Long before the concept of the work-whistle was even thought of, the coquí was sounding its alarm to signal the end of the day. Sugarcane cutters still use this little frog’s croak as the signal to end a hard day’s work. If you are ever fortunate enough to see one, you will find that the frog blows itself up to unimaginable proportions in order to make the tremendous sounds that have made it so popular. So the next time you visit Puerto Rico, why not see if you can hear the distinctive ‘ko-kee!’ of the coquí frog – or perhaps even try and spot one in the foliage? It is one of natures many delights.