Housing Competition And Invasive Species, Cuban Treefrogs

It seems people and birds have been in the same boat when it comes to finding a home this year.

Amelia Island Nature & Real Estate

— Editor’s Note: This article was revised in December 2020 —

For people looking to buy a single-family home on Amelia Island in a price range under $500,000, the choices are slim. Even more scarce are long-term rental homes available for a 1-year lease. (See more info further below about the local housing market).

While folks looking for homes may find few available to fit their needs and pocketbook, some local bluebirds are also singing the blues. In the past, Eastern Bluebird couples have competed for this tiny house (pictured above), chasing each other away. This year, however, they’re finding more than the ordinary winged challenger vying for homes. More specifically, some newcomers are aliens without feathers.

Invasive Cuban Treefrogs
Invasive Species, Cuban Treefrog In Birdhouse, Amelia Island, Florida. (Photo AmeliaIslandLiving.com)
Cuban Treefrog Occupies Birdhouse, Amelia Island

Cuban Treefrogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis), an invasive species, have made their way north from south Florida. As shown above, these frogs now have a presence in the northeast part of the state, pictured here on Amelia Island, in Nassau County, FL near the Georgia border.

Besides harming Florida’s ecosystem (say scientists), they reportedly can also cause problems for Florida homeowners. Invasive Cuban treefrogs grow to be much larger than some of the native frogs. They are the largest species of treefrogs present in Florida. An adult female can be bigger than six inches long (most range between 1 to 4 inches). As seen above, one way to identify Cuban treefrogs is by looking at their toe pads — they’re larger than Florida’s native frogs.

Learn more about Cuban treefrogs, problems they may create for homeowners, and the University of Florida’s Cuban treefrog citizen science project further below.

Amelia Island Homes For Sale

For human house hunters looking for a single-family home located on Amelia Island listed for sale at $500,000 or less (with at least 3 BR/2BA, sized a minimum of 1,500 square feet), they’d find only nine homes available for purchase at this writing. These nine homes range from the lowest list price of $349,900 up to $499,000.  Dividing the length of the island into two, only three homes are listed for sale south of the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport (south of Simmons Road). The other six homes for sale are located on the northern half of Amelia Island.

Amelia Island Homes For Rent

A search of the local rental marketplace on Amelia Island indicates only six single-family homes are currently available for rent (long-term, one-year lease). These six homes have at least 3BA/2BA, but we note some are smaller than 1,500 SF (three sized from around 1,100 SF to 1,450 SF). Monthly rents for these six Amelia Island rental homes range from $1,850 to $3,300. All are located on the northern half of Amelia Island.

NOTE: Housing information above as of mid-October 2020, searching both the local MLS and Zillow.

Cuban Treefrogs Like Houses
Cuban Treefrogs are Florida invasive species, pictured in birdhouse, Nassau County. Photo by AmeliaIslandLiving.com.
Cuban Treefrog In Bluebird House, Amelia Island, FL

These invasive frogs seem to really like a roof over their head and walls around them. However they’ll grab cover elsewhere, as well. Turning over an upside down pot on the porch in December, a juvenile Cuban treefrog was found inside.

Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach recently had its first hard freeze in around four years (two days during Christmas week 2020 when temps dipped to around 30 and 27 degrees). Apparently, it was a longer duration of freezing temps back in 2010 that helped reduce the population of Cuban treefrogs in south Florida. However, in the last decade, they’ve since made a comeback.

Cuban treefrogs are also cannibalistic, known to eat native frogs. This Florida invasive species is native not only to Cuba, its namesake, but also to the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.

Hitchhiking Travelers

Cuban treefrogs have spread over many decades from south Florida all the way through the Sunshine State, being discovered here in northeast Florida in more recent years. Apparently they didn’t hop their way through Florida. Instead, they hitchhiked “on ornamental plants, motorized vehicles, boats, etc.,” according to Dr. Steve A. Johnson at the University of Florida. “As of 2017, there are established breeding populations as far north as Cedar Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast, and Gainesville in north-central Florida.”

How To Attract Eastern Bluebirds
Eastern Bluebird (Photo Amelia Island, FL)

Some may agree that the beautiful Eastern Bluebird, a male with its vivid blue plumage pictured above, is a far more appealing than an invasive frog.

What problems do Cuban treefrogs cause for the environment and homeowners?

These frogs can apparently get into a home’s plumbing via roof vents, and end up in the bathroom. (Imagine an unpleasant “surprise” in the toilet!)

“Cuban treefrogs are causing harm to our native ecosystem in ways that we have only begun to understand, and are causing native treefrog populations to decline. They have also become an urban pest, showing up in toilets, clogging drains, and leaping from doorways onto unsuspecting passers-by. They can do considerable economic damage by short-circuiting utility switches and causing expensive power outages. Their skin secretes slimy mucus that can burn the eyes and nose and cause allergy symptoms or trigger an asthma attack. Do not allow children to handle these frogs with bare hands! We recommend that you learn more about these frogs and how you can use treefrog houses to remove these noxious pests from your yard so they do not hang around (and possibly enter) your home. By removing Cuban treefrogs, you can help Florida’s native treefrogs survive in suburbia.”

SOURCE: Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension
Other Invasive Species — Pythons & Iguanas

Besides Cuban treefrogs, Florida has been invaded by other species as well that threaten native species. For those who may be skirmish about frogs, imagine a close encounter with an 18-foot-long python (or a 5-foot-long green iguana).

Record breaking 18 foot, 9 inch python caught in Florida, photo credit South Florida Water Management District.
Record Breaker! 18′ 9″ Python (photo: South Florida Water Mgmt. District)
Record Breaking Python Captured In Florida

Captured in South Florida in October 2020, was a record breaking python, pictured above, measuring 18 feet, 9 inches long! These huge, dangerous snakes have been taking over the Everglades.

Burmese pythons are native to far away places like China and India. In south Florida, pythons have been known to eat animals as large as a deer, and can also eat dogs and cats. Burmese pythons have even consumed a fierce Florida native predator at the top of the food chain, the American alligator.

Pictured above, “Members of Python Action Team and the South Florida Water Management District’s Python Elimination Program captured an 18 foot, 9 inch Burmese python. That’s a new record! Ryan Ausburn and Kevin Pavlidis caught the behemoth of a snake weighing a whopping 104 pounds. The removal of this female snake is a triumph for our native wildlife and habitats and a great example of the partnership between our two programs working toward our goal of removing nonnative pythons.” This description is according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Facebook page (October 8, 2020).

Florida’s Green Iguana Invasion
Green Iguana. Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission photo
Green Iguana (Photo: MyFWC Facebook 9-23-2020)

Another invader, Green iguanas, can grow to be as long as five feet, and have also become problematic in south Florida. They’re native to Central and South America. This Florida invasive species has become prominent in some neighborhoods in cities like Jupiter. South Florida citizens are advised by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to capture and humanely euthanize Green iguanas.

Consider that “more than 50,000 foreign plant and animal species have become established in the United States,” during the last century, or so. Yet, only one in seven have become invasive, according to estimates. The damages from such, along with the cost of attempting to control invasive species, is astounding — reportedly in the vicinity of $138 billion-plus every year (U.S.D.A. APHIS, 2001).

Related Content

Cuban Treefrog — Proper Identification

“The Cuban Treefrog can be tough to identify. These invasive frogs can be white, gray, green, or brown, and can change colors,” according to UF. For those unsure about properly identifying Cuban treefrogs, see this identification PDF from University of Florida. Or eMail an image of the frog in question to the experts at the University of Florida. (Frog photos pictured above on Amelia Island, FL were confirmed in less than 24 hours.) Send photo(s) to the Citizen Science Project at University of Florida, eMail: [email protected] .

Cuban Treefrog Citizen Science Program

The University of Florida invites the public to provide data for their citizens science project. Dr. Steve A. Johnson, Associate Professor, Dept. of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation at the University of Florida has been researching Cuban Treefrogs. Learn more about the Cuban Treefrog citizens science project at University of Florida, and information about how to humanely euthanize this invasive species from experts at the University of Florida.

By The Editor

"PERSPECTIVE" column features observations of island life, news & opinion by managing editor, Wendy Lawson. With a professional background that began at a newspaper, she later spent 14 years in the financial services and real estate industries. She was a managing editor at an equity research and publishing firm in New York and later became Series 7 licensed while at Merrill Lynch. Since 1993, she's enjoyed the laid-back Amelia lifestyle and loves photographing coastal nature and seascapes around the Florida-Georgia border.