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The Welcoming Coquí

2012 October 18

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

By Lina Younes,

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For me, there are very few things that make me feel more “at home” when I visit Puerto Rico than when I listen to the melodious voice of a small little frog called the coquí. Call it nostalgia, call it idyllic musings, but when I hear the nocturnal coquí chants I am transported to my youth in Puerto Rico. So, recently when I returned to the island for the first time in nearly three years, I was very excited when I heard a lone coquí welcoming me on the afternoon of my arrival. It is hard to explain to others who have not grown up with that nocturnal symphony, but it filled me with a sense of internal peace in spite of all the surrounding urban activities at that time. I said to myself: “I’m home.”

There are numerous species of these small amphibians on the islands of Puerto Rico which belong to the Eleutherodactylus genus which in Greek means free toes. When I was growing up, the popular notion was that the coquí frog “could only live in Puerto Rico.” However, over the years I have found out that over 700 different species occur in other areas including Florida, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, and even Hawaii.  Yet, in the islands of Hawaii they are an invasive species unlike their Caribbean cousins.

Although the coquí in Puerto Rico seems to have adapted quite well on the islands of Puerto Rico in spite of the urban sprawl, one of the species, the coquí llanero was recently identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as a threatened species in danger of extinction. FWS is currently taking steps to protect the species in its habitat, a wetland in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Although you might not notice it by the abundance of coquí chants at night, there has been a decline in the coquí population over the decades. Some of the coquís have also been adversely affected by a certain fungus that attacks their vulnerable skin.

The song of the coquí has inspired numerous poems, songs, and artistic expressions in Puerto Rico. I love listening to

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

the coquí chants especially after it rains. You can actually hear distinct voices and calls back and forth as if they are having a conversation. I still remember fondly falling asleep with the lull of the coquí. Hope you can enjoy it one day.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Wellington permalink
    October 19, 2012

    It is very important to find blogs that describe with authority to provide accurate information will who is looking for a little knowledge.
    Congratulations content.
    Blogging is for those who love and not for anyone, we must work with love.

  2. Alexander permalink
    October 20, 2012

    As Lina likes listen coqui in Puerto Rico, so I liked listen voices of hoopoes in settlement Novofedorovka on west beach of peninsula Crimea in Ukraine. Today here people destroys ecosystem: constantly burnIng trash, poured fresh water lakes. And the hoopoes disappear, and I disappear with hoopoes from this place too.

  3. Luis Estrada permalink
    October 21, 2012

    Hi Lina Younes,

    My name is Luis Estrada from Puerto Rico when I was a student at the University of Puerto Rico Dr. Joglar was my biology teacher. Dr. Joglar is an expert on “ coquies “that live at El Yunque (a rain forest at Puerto Rico”).

    If you are interesting to interview him, will be my pleasure to try to contact him.

    Thanks for your public service

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    October 22, 2012

    Luis,

    Thanks for the information. I will reach out to Dr. Joglar in the future. In fact, I am planning to write a blog about my recent visit to El Yunque. Stay tuned!!!!
    Lina Younes-EPA

  5. Britta permalink
    February 8, 2013

    My boyfriend is from Puerto Rico and misses the sounds of the coqui after a rain. It is difficult to find a recording of the cacophony which results from a rain. Many recordings are ruined by added music or aren’t from right after a rain. If you are researching more, or have a recording, please pass it along or post it!

  6. Doris permalink
    June 26, 2014

    Coquíes are in danger of extinction in Puerto Rico and actually two of them are already extinct – the Coquí Dorado and the Coquí Palmeado. Hawaiians don’t have to kill the Coquí frog, send all the Coquí frogs to Puerto Rico, please, we love that frog.

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