A Guide to Frogs and Toads

Use this gallery to identify the North American frogs and toads in your garden.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation, photo by Lori Naanes

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation, photo by Christine Rollo

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation, photo by Paula Stone-Buckner

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation, photo by Gail Godin

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation, photo by Christina Rolle

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Photo By: Image courtesy of TSTP.tv

Aboreal in Nature

Tree frogs get their name from their arboreal nature which allows them to easily climb vegetation and trees where they will build nests and live, except in the spring when they descend to lay their eggs in ponds. Unlike their aquatic ancestors, tree frogs have fewer competitors for insects in their habitat and fewer predators as well.

Green Frog or Bullfrog?

The green frog (Lithobates clamitans) is native to the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada and is sometimes mistaken for a bullfrog since they share some physical similarities. But green frogs don't grow as large—their normal size is up to five inches—and they have dorsolateral ridges running down their back which don't appear on bullfrogs.

I'm an American Toad

The American toad (Bufo americanus), sometimes referred to as the hop toad, can be found mostly in the northeast United States and eastern Canada. The species runs two to four-and-a-half inches in length and can vary in color (tan, olive green, reddish brown and other variations). Some may be patterned while others are solid in color. You can find them in moist areas with plenty of insects.

Staring Contest

The American toad is distinguished by its short legs, stout body and granular skin with warts. The American toad's bumpy skin contains glands that produce a toxic, milky fluid that serves as protection from predators. They also have a distinctive call which can last between 4 and 20 seconds.

Kiss Me, I'm a Prince

The bullfrog is considered the largest frog in North America and is very territorial. It lives a solitary existence and only mingles with its own species to mate or fight over territory. The bullfrog is also extremely voracious and will eat almost any animal it can swallow: other frogs, small turtles, baby birds and small mammals.

A Genuine Tree Walker

The gray tree frog has large, sticky toe pads that allow it to cling to tree bark and other vegetation. Approximately two inches in size, they generally breed in fishless wetlands and are known to climb house walls and windows in their hunt for insects attracted by light.

Amphibian Conservation

Recent studies show that all amphibians on the planet are in decline when measured against former population figures. Ron Skylstad of Tree Walkers International says, "Frogs, newts, toads and salamanders aren't the poster animals we usually like to see and so they're not getting a lot of attention." Yet he maintains that amphibian conservation is crucial. "You have all of these things that are part of this complicated web and if one thing is removed from that web everything else in many ways has this domino effect."

Leopard Skin

Leopard frogs inhabit most of North America and are found in a wide range of habitats from forests to marshlands to brushlands, that offer slow-moving water. Their green coloring with prominent black spotting often resembles a leopard pattern which explains their name.

Color Shifter

The gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a small arboreal frog that is variable in color due to its ability to camouflage itself and hide from predators by changing from gray to green, black to white and other color transitions. They are also capable of surviving freezing temperatures in a half frozen state and invaluable in science research on cybernetics.

Broadcasting Seasonal Change

Long identified as harbingers of spring, the spring peeper frog (Pseudacris crucifer) get their name from the mid-March nocturnal mating calls of male spring peepers announcing an end to winter. They have large toe pads for climbing and are often found in forests and semi-permanent wetlands.

On the Road to Extinction?

Presently listed as an endangered species in Colorado and New Mexico, the boreal toad (Bufo boreas boreas) was commonly found in the southern Rocky Mountains. They are distinguished from the Western toad by an underbelly which is covered with dark blotches and the males have no vocal sac so they can't produce mating calls. Reasons for the recent decline of the boreal toad have been attributed to the chytrid fungus.

Green Frog Sighting

The green frog (Lithobates clamitans) spends most of its life in water and, during the winter, it will bury itself in the substrate at the bottom of ponds and pools until spring. When they are startled by potential predators, green frogs will make a high-pitched peep as an alarm to other frogs before fleeing to safety.

Want to Share a Snack?

Usually found in river bottoms and flood plains, the Fowler's toad (Bufo fowleri) burrows in the sand to hide during the day and comes out at night to hunt for insects. They inhabit the Atlantic Coastal Plain and emit a harsh musical trill that makes a "w-a-a-h" sound.

Pity the Poor Toad

The great Scandanavian biologist, Carl Linnaeus wrote about toads in his book The System of Nature, stating, "These foul and loathsome animals are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale color...offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation and terrible venom." Modern science has a more positive view of the species as they are prime indicators of environmental changes and ecosystem health and also invaluable in medical research.

Bog Lover

Ranging in color from tan to dark brown to reddish-brown, the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) is distinguished by a black band that stretches past both eyes to the eardrums and resembles a dark eye mask. Their habitat ranges from northern Georgia on up to northeastern Canada and are mostly found in moist woodlands, bogs and ravines.

The Amphibian Who Would Be King

The bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) is native to the wastern half of the U.S., ranging from the Atlantic Coast to as far west as Kansas and Oklahoma. His call has been described as sounding like the mooing of a bull or cow, hence its name.