Frogs and Toads Species of New York (Upstate)

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About Frogs and Toads

The difference between Frogs and Toads

Leopard Frod

All toads are frogs. Despite popular opinion, there is no distinct evolutionary branch that contains just toads. We call a frog a “toad” because we identify it as being more adapted for living on land than the more wet habitats in which “frogs” reside. Toads generally have more earthy colors, thick, rough, bumpy skin with patterns that hide them well in forest debris. Some toads even have bony “spades” on their feet for better burrowing in the dirt or sand. While these characteristics may seem to fall under a new branch on the evolutionary tree, the truth is that many different toads actually evolved these adaptations separately from one another. Toads are scattered across branches rather than on a single one. Making the word “toad” a description rather than a classification.

Frogs as environmental indicators

Frogs are amphibians, animals that metamorphosize from water-breathing juveniles to air-breathing adults. Since they are stuck in the evolutionary path between fully aquatic and fully terrestrial, they share many of the characteristics of both. Frogs and tadpoles have soft, porous skin that absorbs oxygen from the air and water that surrounds them, helping them compensate for less-than-perfectly evolved lungs. Unfortunately, their skin also absorbs pollutants very easily. Certain pollutants, such as heavy metals, accumulate in the body over time and some can cause DNA damage. Other pollutants can cause developmental problems. Since frogs go through a complicated metamorphosis from tadpole to adult frog, chemicals can interfere with that transformation and cause deformities or death. Fertilizer runoff can cause algae blooms and promote parasite growth. Parasites infect developing tadpoles, causing deformities. An abundance of frogs with multiple legs, deformed appendages or missing limbs is a sign of possible pollution in the area. Scientists can survey frog developmental deformities to help gauge the environmental health of a pond or stream.

Poisonous frogs

There are some tropical frogs that secrete dangerous toxins through their skin. They are toxic to eat and touch, even through secondary contact. Luckily, we don’t have those poisonous frogs here. The Eastern Spadefoot and Pickerel do secrete toxins, but are generally harmless creatures that pose little threat to humans and large animals. Through general contact there may be some skin or eye irritation that will subside in time. One thing to be concerned about is small domestic animals, such as cats and dogs consuming those species. Although not deadly, it may cause illness.

Frog and Toad Books and Field Guides

  

New York State Frog/Toad Species Identification Guide

Eastern Spadefoot Toad
Eastern Spadefoot Toad
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Eastern Spadefoot Toad
(Scaphiopus holbrookii)

Identifying characteristics: A small brown toad with large protruding eyes with vertical pupils. Their eye color is gold and glows pink under flashlight at night, making them easy to spot. Stemming from the eyes, an hourglass-shaped marking, formed by light-colored lines, stretches down the back. They may also be speckled with orange/reddish warts. The hind feet have a sickle-shaped digging “spade” for burrowing. Video

Size: Average body length of 2 inches.

Habitat: Wooded areas with soft soil or sand to burrow through. They spend most of their time underground, coming up at night to feed.

Food: Carnivorous. Insects and earthworms.

Reproduction: Breeds during times of heavy rain and lays eggs in temporary pools. Tadpoles hatch and mature quickly to beat the drying of the pools. Young frogs migrate out by the thousands usually at the same time, causing traffic problems in some areas.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. Skin is slightly toxic to some animals.

Vocalization: Repetitive, low-pitched “errrrr.” Video

Eastern Spadefoot call



Distribution

Distribution

South-eastern portion of the state. From the southern end of the Adirondacks through Long Island.

Status:
Special Concern in NY

Eastern American ToadEastern American Toad Find more images

Eastern American Toad
(Bufo a. americanus)

Identifying characteristics: A stout, tan to red to brown body and very noticeable warts. The skin is thick and dry (adapted for living on land) and the warts can occur in or out of dark spots on the skin (1-2 warts per dark spot). Large bean-shaped paratoid glands, often distinguished by color are on the back of the head. Across the head are 2 well-distinguished cranial crests above the eyes. Large belly.

Size: Average body length of 3 inches.

Habitat: Prefers forests, wetlands or fields with dense vegetation. Near permanent or semi-permanent freshwater pond or pool (for reproduction). Can be found nearly anywhere. Often found hiding under objects like leaves, logs, lumber, barrels, etc.

Food: Carnivorous. Insects other invertebrates.

Reproduction: Breeds during times of rain and lays eggs in the shallows of ponds or pools. Tadpoles hatch and mature quickly.

Other Info.: Diurnal. To beat the summer heat they will often bury themselves in dirt.

Vocalization: Long, high-pitched chirping trill. Video, Video



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Common across NY state and surrounding states.

Status: common

Fowler's Toad Bufo fowleri
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Fowler’s Toad
(Bufo fowleri)

Identifying characteristics: Very similar to the Eastern American Toad. A stout, grey to brown to olive body and very noticeable warts. The skin is thick and dry (adapted for living on land) and the warts can occur in or out of dark spots on the skin (3 or more warts per dark spot). Large bean-shaped paratoid glands touch the cranial crests in this species. It has a mid-dorsal, lightly-colored stripe and less prominent cranial crest than the American Toad.

Size: Average body length of 2 inches.

Habitat: Prefers forests, wetlands or fields with dense vegetation. Near permanent or semi-permanent freshwater ponds or pools (for reproduction). Often found hiding under objects.

Food: Carnivorous. Insects and earthworms.

Reproduction: Breeds during times of rain and lays eggs in the shallows of ponds or pools. Tadpoles hatch and mature quickly.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. May breed with the Eastern American Toad.

Vocalization: Long; high pitched; like a lamb; “waaaaah” Video

Fowler’s Toad Call



Distribution

Distribution

South-eastern portion of the state. From the southern end of the Adirondacks through Long Island.

Status: common

Gray Tree Frog
Gray Tree Frog
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Gray Tree Frog
(Hyla versicolor)

AKA: Gray treefrog; Eastern gray treefrog; Common gray treefrog.

Identifying characteristics: Although color may vary based on immediate environment, generally gray or green with black blotches and warts on its back. The groin region is often yellowish orange with black speckles. The hind legs have dark bands. The toes have large pads for sticking to vertical surfaces. The eyes have small light patches underneath. Moist skin. No warts.

Habitat: Arboreal. Trees in wooded areas near permanent or semi-permanent freshwater pond or pool (for reproduction). Often found in decaying trees during summer months. During breeding season, near water.

Food: Carnivorous. Insects, spiders and earthworms. May eat other Gray tree frogs if food is scarce.

Reproduction: They begin calling in March, grouping near shallow water, either on branches or along the shore. Eggs are deposited in shallow water and tadpoles hatch a week later. Juvenile tree frogs are generally bright green and stay close to water.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. May shift colors based on its immediate environment.

Vocalization: Short, high-pitch trill. Video, Video



Distribution

Distribution

Common across NY state and surrounding states.

Status: Common

Northern Spring Peeper Northern Spring Peeper Find more images

Northern Spring Peeper
(Pseudacris c. crucifer)

AKA: Spring peeper, Chorus frog (incorrectly); Peeper

Identifying characteristics: A small, slender frog that is easily identified by the dark cross on its back (hence the scientific name), though the cross is diagonal and thus more resembles an X. They vary in color, from rust to brown to grey to green and often have more stripe-like markings in addition to the cross. Their skin is smooth and their belly is cream-colored. Like other tree frogs they have noticeable pads on their unwebbed fingers/toes to help them stick to surfaces. Moist skin. No warts.

Size: Average body length of less than 1.5 inches.

Habitat: Wooded areas near bodies of temporary/permanent water. Often found in leaf litter, but is a great climber and can also be found in trees.

Food: Insectivorous. Small insects.

Reproduction: Named for their relatively early breeding season. Breeds in early spring near ponds or stagnant temporary pools in wooded areas. Eggs hatch quickly, but tadpoles take months to mature.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. On hot days they will dig into soft mud to cool off.

Vocalization: Short, high “peep.” Usually done in duets or trios. Often sounding like small bells.

Northern Spring Peeper Call Northern Spring Peeper Call



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Well-distributed across the state.

Status: Common

Western Chorus Frog Western Chorus Frog Find more images

Western Chorus Frog
(Pseudacris triseriata)

Identifying characteristics: Often identified by a white stripe across the upper lip and a thicker dark line that runs on each side from the nose, through the eye and to the groin. More (usually 3) dark stripes or blotches may be present running down the back. The body color is often light brown or reddish brown to gray or olive with a cream belly. The skin is moist and slightly bumpy. The toes have toe pads and no webbing. Moist skin. No warts.

Size: Average body length of 2 inches.

Habitat: Many damp areas, but primarily wetland habitats. Require permanent/semi-permanent body of water for reproduction.

Food: Insectivorous. Small insects.

Reproduction: Calls begin in April. Females lay eggs in ponds or pools. Tadpoles can take up to 2 weeks to hatch and almost 3 months to become frogs.

Other Info.: Diurnal. Generally active both day and night depending on temperature.

Vocalization: A rising “cree-ee-eek” Video, Video

Western Chorus Frog Call



Distribution

Distribution

Common in northern parts of western NY

Status: Common

American Bull Frog American Bull Frog
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American Bull Frog
(Lithobates catesbeianus / Rana catesbeiana)

AKA: Bull frog; North American bull frog; Bullfrog

Identifying characteristics: The largest frog in North America. It varies in color from brown to green and may have dark spots on the back. On the sides of the head are large tympanic membranes (ear drums) that look like circles. The belly is cream colored but may be bright yellow in males during the breeding season. The hind feet are webbed. Sometimes there are dark colored bands or blotches on the hind legs. The skin is moist. The bullfrog lacks prominent dorsolateral ridges that extend down the sides of the back from the eyes.

Size: Average body length of 4-5 inches.

Habitat: Aquatic, requiring water such as a lake, pond, stream, river or marsh. Warm, still waters with abundant vegetation are preferred, but they can be found anywhere.

Food: Carnivorous, opportunist. Will eat any animal it can fit in its mouth. Including snakes, lizards and other frogs.

Reproduction: Breeds throughout the spring and summer, sometimes twice a year. Their eggs are laid in thin sheets under water. Tadpoles take a long time to metamorphosize, sometimes remaining tadpoles through the winter.

Other Info.: Generally nocturnal, but may be active during the day throughout breeding season. May migrate across land to locate a more suitable habitat.

Vocalization: A deep loud “rrr-rrr” Video, Video

American Bullfrog



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Well-distributed across the state.

Status: Common

Northern Green Frog Northern Green Frog
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Northern Green Frog
(Lithobates clamitans / Rana clamitans melanota)

AKA: Green frog; Bronze frog

Identifying characteristics: These frogs resemble a small bullfrog, sharing similar colors and pronounced tympanic membranes (ear drums) behind the eyes. An easy way to tell them apart is to look for two parallel skin folds or ridges (dorsolateral folds) that extend from the eye down the sides of the back. The body varies in color from brown to green and may have dark spots on the back. Some specimens may be brown with partially or completely green heads. The belly is cream colored but may be bright yellow in males during the breeding season. The skin is moist.

Size: Average body length of 2-4 inches.
Habitat: Aquatic, requiring permanent water such as a lake, pond, stream, river or marsh. Prefers abundant vegetation.

Food: Carnivorous, opportunist. Will eat any animal it can fit in its mouth. Including small snakes, lizards and other frogs.

Reproduction: Breeds throughout the summer. The eggs take a few weeks to hatch. Olive-colored tadpoles develop into frogs after several months.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. Very wary and difficult to spot. They will often “yelp” when dashing away from predators to warn others nearby. Tadpoles are slightly toxic if consumed.

Vocalization: A banjo-plucking “twang” Video

Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Well-distributed across the state.

Status: Common

Mink Frog Mink Frog
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Mink Frog
(Lithobates septentrionalis / Rana septentrionalis)

Identifying characteristics: The color of this frog varies from green to brown, often having both colors, with green more prominent on the head. There is dark spotting or blotching present throughout the back and legs, but the belly is cream or yellow. Often mistaken for Green Frogs, the Mink Frog has less pronounced dorsolateral folds (if at all), no banding on the legs, and more developed hind foot webbing. Releases a foul smell (of rotting onions) when handled. The skin is moist. No prominent warts.

Size: Average body length of 2-3 inches.

Habitat: Aquatic, requiring permanent water such as a lake, pond, bog or marsh. Vegetation, such as water lilies or pickerel weed is preferred. Will traverse land if it is damp enough.

Food: Carnivorous. Snails, insects, spiders.

Reproduction: Breeds later than most frogs. Tadpoles may take up to a year to develop into frogs.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. They are skittish and difficult to spot. They spend a lot of time floating on water lilies. They hibernate underwater.

Vocalization: A rapid “cut-cut-cut” that almost sounds like the distant hammering of nails into wood. Video



Distribution

Distribution

Distributed across north-eastern NY (Adirondacks region)

Status: Common

Wood Frog Wood FrogFind more images

Wood Frog
Lithobates sylvaticus
(Rana sylvatica)

Identifying characteristics: Their color varies from shades of brown to olive to grey with some mottling, to blend in well with forest debris. They have black stripes on each side of the head that run from their nose, through the eye and tympanic membrane stopping at the shoulder. It looks similar to a robber’s mask. Many also have a white stripe across their upper lip. A pronounced skin ridge (dorsolateral fold) may run from the eye to the hind legs. The skin is moist.

Size: Average body length of 2 inches.

Habitat: Very tolerant of cold temperatures and can withstand freezing. They spend their life in mixed habitats of woodland, forested swamps, bogs and temporary pools.

Food: Carnivorous. Snails, insects, spiders.

Reproduction: Breeding begins as soon as the snow melts and meltwater produces pools. Reproducing in temporary pools saves the young from hungry fish.

Other Info.: They hibernate in the forest under debris and will often freeze solid and return to life when thawed.

Vocalization: “Quacking” Video

Wood Frog Call



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Common across NY and northern states.

Status: Common

Leopard Frod
Northern Leopard Frog Find more images

Northern Leopard Frog
(Lithobates pipiens / Rana pipiens)

AKA: Grass Frog, Meadow Frog, Spotted Frog.

Identifying characteristics: This green to brown frog is easily identified by its large dark circular spots. These spots are often surrounded by a thin lightly-colored line. Many specimens have a white stripe across their upper lip. They also have lighter-colored dorsolateral ridges (skin folds) that run from the eye to the hind legs. The belly is pale green or cream-colored. Its toes are webbed. The skin is moist and wart-less.

Size: Average body length of 3-4 inches.

Habitat: Aquatic, requiring permanent bodies of water such as a lake, pond, stream, river or marsh with abundant vegetation. They will often traverse meadows or wooded areas.

Food: Carnivorous. Snails, insects, spiders.

Reproduction: Breeding begins in spring and tadpoles metamorphasize by the end of summer.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. They will often “yelp” when dashing away from predators to warn others nearby. This is the frog commonly used in classrooms for dissection.

Vocalization: Low, throaty grunt. Video, Video



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Common across NY and northern states.

Status: Common

Pickerel Frog Pickerel Frog
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Pickerel Frog
(Lithobates palustris / Rana palustris)

Identifying characteristics: Similar in appearance to the Northern Leopard Frog, but the dark brown spots on this frog look like crudely drawn squares rather than circles. The spots are also uniformly organized into 2 rows running in-between the 2 dorsolateral ridges (skin folds) that run down the sides of the back. The undersides of the Pickerel are generally yellow to orange. The body color is usually tan or olive. The skin is moist and wart-less.

Size: Average body length of 2.5 inches.

Habitat: Aquatic, cool, running streams and springs. Sometimes found in other wetland habitats.

Food: Carnivorous. Snails, insects, spiders.

Reproduction: Breeding begins in early spring and females lay eggs in ponds or pools. Tadpoles metamorphasize over a 3 month period.

Other Info.: Nocturnal. Hibernate in the silt or mud at the bottom of ponds. Secretes a toxic chemical which may kill other frogs and small animals and may irritate the eyes and skin of humans.

Vocalization: Low-pitch, snore-like croak. Video

Pickerel Frog call



Distribution

Distributed everywhere around the state

Common across NY and northern states.

Status: Common

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