The Coquis of the
Caribbean National Forest

When the coquis sing, expect the rain forest to live up to its name.

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The Coquis

El Yunque's best known and most vocal inhabitant s are its millions of tiny tree frogs known as coquis (pronounced “co-kee”). The coquis name applies to all 13 species of El Yunque's tree frogs although only 2 of them ( the forest and common coqui ) actually produce the famous "co-kee" sound .

Eleven of the 13 species are found only in Puerto Rico . Each of the other species has its own distinctive call ; some sound like "bob white" quail. With the variety of voices, you can expect a diverse sunset chorus.

The coquis sing loudest when it rains . Despite how often that occurs, the frogs seem deliriously happy with each new sprinkle. If you want to hear the coquis sing, expect to get wet ; you probably will, anyway, since this is a rain forest .

But if it doesn't rain during your visit, hang around until sunset , when the coquis always sing .

The coquis of El Yunque are only about an inch in length and vary in color from gray to brown to green to yellow. Forest Service biologists say the tree frogs call to defend their different territories used for shelter, feeding and mating.

As might be expected, the loudest calls are made by males defending their mating territory. Some scientists say that by calling out , the male coqui is trying to discourage other nearby males from attracting females.

Coquis are fascinating creatures . All species have pads or disks on their toe tips that enable them to cling to slippery surfaces. Arboreal or tree-living species have larger toe pads than those living on the ground.

Most coquis found in the lowlands are arboreal , where in the high forest they are mostly ground-dwellers . Although the lowland species range high up into the mountains , the mountain residents rarely are found in the lowlands. Apparently, the mountain coquis know all about the heat lower down .

Sometimes, it's said that frogs literally fall out of the sky in the rain forest, and it's partially true . When the humidity is high, the coqui will climb as high as 100 feet in search of food, and predators like the tarantula are only too happy to greet them .

The frogs that make it up high often jump off and drop to the forest floor rather than risk going back down the tree where predators are waiting. The frogs are so light they almost float to the ground. And that's how it rains frogs in the rain forest.

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