Puerto Rico’s Unofficial Mascot – The Coqui Frog
“Coquí is the popular name given to a genus of frogs (Eleutherodactylus) endemic to the island of Puerto Rico. They are a genus of frog that do not go through metamorphosis or have webbed feet.
In our island, 17 different species of Eleutherodactylus (coqui), live in the island, and only the males of the Common Coqui and the Mountain Coqui species, sing co-qui!” – says Melissa Rosario of Luquillo Puerto Rico.
A Coquí is a tiny tree frog native to Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands. It is extremely common and produces a very distinctive mating call – a loud, high-pitched “Ko-Kee” – that can be heard from a long distance away. The Coquí song (call) can be heard all around the island beginning at dusk and well into the night hours. Listen to the Coquí sounds here.
Puerto Ricans love their Coquís and have written songs and poems about them, in fact, this tiny frog has become a mascot, of sorts, for the island of Puerto Rico. You can, even, find Coquís in native Taino art, i.e. petroglyphs, and native myths.
Unlike other species of frogs, Coquís do not depend on water to reproduce and do not go through a tadpole stage, instead they lay eggs under leaves or damp moss and the young hatch into fully developed (although teeny) frogs. The male Coquí broods the eggs and provides moisture for them until they hatch.
Adult Coquís are only about one inch long and are brown in color (they can be different shades and even yellow or green). They are generally a nocturnal species, quite active at night and returning to their nests at dawn.
The male Coquís serenade loudly to attract females and to scare away competing males. The song is quite beautiful and unique, which contributes to their beloved status with the island natives.
The Coquí has special pads at the tips of its toes and fingers, these pads allow it to climb vertical structures and trees and cling to barks and leaves – in fact, the genus name Eleutherodactylus means “free toes”. Unlike other types of frogs, the Coquí’s feet are not webbed.
The Common Coquí diet varies but is usually composed of insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Young Coquís consume smaller prey, like ants, while larger adults have been observed eating snails and even other, smaller frogs.
Around Puerto Rico, the Coquís can be found anywhere from sea level to a maximum of 3,900 feet altitude. They live in all sorts of habitats including forests, mountains and even urban areas. They like to live in moist areas within bromeliad plants, holes in trees, and under rocks.
Coquís have been accidently introduced to Hawaii where they are considered an invasive species because of their voracious appetite that puts Hawaii’s unique insects and spiders at risk. In Hawaii, they are also considered a noise menace and, unlike in Puerto Rico, are not loved and appreciated for their song.
The next time you’re visiting us in Luquillo, be sure to listen at night for the Coquís. You will most certainly hear them, especially in and around the rainforest areas.