Bullfrogs are known far and wide for their bellowing calls. Go out to any still body of water near dusk and you’re likely to hear the distinct ‘jug-o-rum’ croak of the male bullfrog. Both males and females have long, powerful back legs, and huge mouths. They are normally light brown to green in color, and have darker spots. The males have yellow throats and huge eardrums behind their eyes. But just what do bullfrogs eat?
Here, we’ll learn what bullfrogs eat across the world, how they hunt, and what you can feed your pet bullfrog. We’ll explore just what makes the bullfrog one of the greatest predators in its small, freshwater world, and why some people have even taken to entering their bullfrogs into competitions. Then, we’ll take a look at bullfrog tadpoles, and just how they make it to adulthood.
What Do Bullfrogs Like to Eat?
Bullfrogs eat a diet that consists of insects, small mammals, fish, and more. They are predominantly carnivores.
Bullfrogs live in still freshwater like ponds, marshes, canals, storm drains, and slow streams and rivers. The American bullfrog dominates in North America, while the African bullfrog is found across Africa. No matter where the bullfrogs live, they eat the same thing: everything.
Bullfrogs are opportunistic hunters, and will eat anything unlucky enough to cross their path. This includes:
- Insects: spiders, crickets, mealworms, earth worms, roaches, and snails
- Small birds
- Small fish
- Other frogs: including smaller frogs and tadpoles
- Small turtles
- Salamanders & Newts
- Small mammals: including mice and rats
- Reptiles: including lizards and snakes
Bullfrogs are attracted to movement, and will attack and eat anything small enough that they happen to catch sight of. They will even eat creatures bigger than their own mouths, they simply swallow them down a bit at a time. Bullfrogs can grow up to eight inches long in America, while the goliath bullfrog is the largest species of frog on the planet.
How Do Bullfrogs Hunt?
Bullfrogs are carnivores. They eat everything on land, sea, and in between; they’ve even been observed leaping into the air to catch bats. But just how do they catch all these animals?
First, the bullfrog sights its prey. This could be a fish swimming in a pond, a mouse walking through the reeds, or a cricket perched on a plant. The bullfrog orients its body towards the prey, then, with a powerful thrust of its back legs, leaps at the victim.
Since bullfrogs have such strong back legs, they can jump up to six feet, plenty of room to take their target by surprise. Once they land, usually next to the prey, their heavily muscled tongue shoots out, snagging the creature. At the same time, the bullfrog’s huge mouth opens, drawing the prey inside. If the target is too big, the bullfrog will actually use its front legs to help force it in. Once in the bullfrog’s mouth, the victim quickly suffocates.
What Do Bullfrogs Eat In the Winter?
Bullfrogs eat every moving thing they can get their mouths around. But during North American winters, their options become severely limited. To avoid starvation, many bullfrogs will actually go into a kind of hibernation during the cold months. To do this, they sink themselves to the bottom of a pond, sometimes covering their bodies in a thin layer of mud, and go into a kind of stasis. Their hearts slow down, and their metabolism becomes so slow that they require almost no nutrition.
Once the weather warms up again, the bullfrogs come out. Thanks to the efforts of enterprising humans who wanted to breed them for food (think frog legs), bullfrogs live all over both North and South America. Because they are such good hunters they are actually considered an invasive species, and can do major harm to the population of native species.
What Do Pet Bullfrogs Eat?
Many people keep bullfrogs as pets, often catching them as tadpoles and raising them in captivity. Captive bullfrogs eat a combination of mealworms, earthworms, crickets, roaches, and mice, among other things.
Large, adult bullfrogs only need to be fed every two or three days, while younger bullfrogs should be fed smaller meals on a daily basis. It’s important not to overfeed your pet bullfrog, as they are prone to obesity and will overeat if given the opportunity.
Captive bullfrogs still like to leap, and need large, semi-aquatic aquariums that give them room to do so. Bullfrogs are such noted leapers that many people actually keep them for bullfrog jumping competitions, which are hosted all over the world.
What Do Baby Bullfrogs Eat?
All frogs, bullfrogs included, start out as tadpoles. A tadpole resembles a head with a long tail, they are completely aquatic. Females lay their eggs (up to 20,000) in the early summer, giving the young tadpoles plenty of time to grow into adult bullfrogs before winter hits.
Because the baby tadpoles are so small, and have such tiny mouths, they cannot necessarily hunt. Tadpoles eat mostly algae and very small insects. These food items are almost always in plentiful supply, meaning that, as long as they don’t get eaten by a fish or an adult bullfrog, the tadpoles have a decent chance of surviving to adulthood.
But tadpoles aren’t always safe; many creatures prey on not only the babies, but the adult bullfrogs too. Bass, herons, water snakes, river otters, alligators, and larger bullfrogs will all make a meal out of a young bullfrog.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/William Krumpelman
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