Litoria ewingii

Brown tree frog

Litoria ewingii
(Dumeril and Bibron, 1841)

Southern brown tree frog. <a href="">© Samuel Purdie</a>
Image attribution
Southern brown tree frog. © Samuel Purdie
Herpetofaunal category
Introduced Frogs
Species complex
Conservation Status
Introduced and Naturalised
Common names
Brown tree frog,
Whistling tree frog.

Length: SVL: Males up to 37mm; Females up to 49mm

Weight: unknown

A small brown frog introduced from Tasmania in 1875, the brown tree or whistling frog is now widespread in the southern North Island and through the South Island. It is important that frogs which are held in captivity are not released into the wild as they may pose a threat to our native frogs through transmission of disease and competition. The brown tree frog can be distinguished from native species by their loud vocalisation (native frogs are essentially silent).


The ventral (lower) surface is a creamy white, with breeding males possessing a dark brown throat. The armpits and groin have varying amounts of light yellow or green. The thighs may sport vivid orange markings and this is especially common in mature females. The snout is truncated when viewed in the lateral profile. Eardrums are quite distinctive and can be used to distinguish the brown tree frog from native frogs (which do not have an obvious external eardrum).

Brown tree frog are sexually dimorphic with females being larger than males (female SVL <50mm, male SVL <40mm). Tadpoles reach up to 50mm in length and are typically very dark with a blue or olive tint with a metallic belly.


High pitched and cricket like, a series of 5 or 6 trills of which the first sound is prolonged. Males call year round, particularly after periods of rain.


Widespread in the South Island as well as the central and southern parts of the North Island.

Distribution maps are simplified, predicted distributions based on a combination of known distribution data, historical distribution data, suitability of habitat, and known biogeographic patterns. In some cases, the potential distribution of a species may be very unlikely. However, due to the cryptic nature of some of New Zealand's herpetofauna, it should not be ruled out entirely. Only significant historical records outside the known range of each species are used. 

Ecology and habitat

Found across a wide range of habitats including farmland, forests, and suburban areas, as well as semi arid and alpine areas.

Breeding biology

Brown tree frog are unique in that they can breed throughout the year. Breeding takes place in fresh or mild brackish water from the coastal to alpine zones. Fertilisation is external with eggs laid in clumps attached to submerged plant stems and aquatic vegetation. Tadpoles are black when first hatched, turning brown as they mature.


Small invertebrates


Gill, B.J., & Whitaker, A.H. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Limited.

Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers.

van Winkel, D., Baling, M. & Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand: A field guide. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 376 pp.