Ohio’s 15 species of frogs and toads at a glance

An article entitled, Ohio’s Frog and Toad Species, states that there are 15 species in our state. To help me to learn to identify these species, I wanted to see photos of all 15 on one page. I selected a representative photo for each species from Flickr.

Keep in mind that a single species may vary a lot in color. Below each photo, I note the range of colors that are possible for that species.

Toads

The “True” Toads

Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus americanus)

Eastern American Toad
Eastern American Toad;
Photographed by me at Inniswood Metro Park

The Eastern American toad does vary in color. It may be reddish, gray, or tan.

Fowler’s Toad (Bufo fowleri)

Photo courtesy pondhawk, license: CC BY 2.0

Fowler toad
Fowler’s Toad (Bufo fowleri)

The Fowler’s toad may be brown, tan, gray, or light green. The dark spots on the back of the Fowler’s toad have three or more “warts” while the dark spots, if present on the American toad, have only one or two “warts.” Another distinction is that the bumps on the leg of the American Toad tend to be more pronounced than those of the Fowler’s toad.

The Spadefoot Toads

Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii)

Scaphiopus holbrookii: Eastern Spadefoot by Todd W Pierson, on Flickr
Eastern Spadefoot Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Todd W Pierson 

There are two yellow lines on the Eastern Spadefoot’s back. It is the only frog/toad on this page whose pupils are vertical.

Frogs

The “True” Frogs

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
American Bullfrog;
Photographed by me at Inniswood Metro Park
December bullfrog
American Bullfrog;
Photographed by me in my driveway

The American bullfrog’s back may be green or brown.

Northern Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)

Northern green frog  (Rana clamitans melanota)
Northern Green Frog;
Photographed by me at Inniswood Metro Park

The back of the Northern Green Frog may be green or brownish green. It may or may not have noticeable spots. When it doesn’t seem to have spots, you can still distinguish it from the American Bullfrog because the Northern Green Frog has a ridge going down each side of its back, while the American Bullfrog does not.

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

Pickerel Frog by cm195902, on Flickr
Pickerel Frog Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  cm195902 

The Pickerel Frog may be tan, light brown, or olive-green. Note that the spots between the folds on the frog’s back have a squarish quality.

Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens pipiens)

Leopard Frog Northern Leopard Frog, photographed by me at Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve.

The Northern Leopard Frog may be tan, light brown, or olive-green. Note that the spots have a light-colored rim.

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala utricularius)

Southern Leopard Frog by GA-Kayaker, on Flickr
Southern Leopard Frog Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  GA-Kayaker 

The Southern Leopard Frog may be green or brown. Unlike the Northern Leopard Frog, the spots of the Southern Leopard Frog don’t have a light border.

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Frogs mating
Photographed by me at Dawes Arboretum; these frogs are both wood frogs,
so this gives you some idea of the variation in color that’s possible.

Wood frogs are typically dark brown or tan, but occasionally individuals have been discovered that are a reddish color, or even pink.

The Tree Frogs

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi)

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitan by GregTheBusker, on Flickr
Blanchard’s Cricket Frog Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  GregTheBusker 

The Blanchard’s Cricket Frog may be brown, gray or olive-green.

Cope’s gray tree frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis)

029 by GO Photo2010, on Flickr
Cope’s gray tree frogs Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  GO Photo2010 

The Cope’s gray tree frog (above) and the Eastern gray tree frog (below) are supposed to look virtually identical, but they are very different genetically. You might be saying to yourself, “Hey, they don’t look so very identical to me.” But as mentioned at the top of this post, this is part of the normal variability in color that occurs in many of these species. Typically these two species are gray, but they can change to green.

Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

Hyla versicolor: Eastern Gray Treefrog by Todd W Pierson, on Flickr
Eastern Gray Treefrog Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Todd W Pierson 

Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona)

Pseudacris brachyphona: Mountain Chorus Frog
Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona); published by Todd Pierson at Flickr

The Mountain Chorus Frog may be light brown or olive-green.

Northern Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer crucifer)

Pseudacris crucifer: Spring Peeper by Todd W Pierson, on Flickr
Northern Spring Peeper Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Todd W Pierson 

The back of the Northern Spring Peeper is some combination of yellow, brown, tan, reddish, or olive-green.

Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata triseriata)

Western Chorus Frog by Benimoto, on Flickr
Western Chorus Frog Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Benimoto 

The Western Chorus Frog’s back is brown, gray, tan or olive-green.

Window wells: Because people have posted comments about finding tiny toads in their basement window wells, I looked into this further. It turns out that once the toads get into the window wells, they are trapped there and will likely die if a person doesn’t help them to escape. Probably the best solution is to prevent the animal from getting into the window well in the first place. You can do this by getting a window well cover like this one at Amazon.com. You can also find window well covers at your local hardware store. Another alternative that might work is putting something into the window well that a small animal could use as a ramp to get out.
© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012
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29 Responses to Ohio’s 15 species of frogs and toads at a glance

  1. Erin says:

    We recently found 8 tiny baby toads color ranging from light green dark green and even a rusty brown, in our basement window well, we have a pond behind our house about 600 yards on the other side of some railroad tracks, so we brought all of them to that location. For the last week we keep having 4-6 of the same type, size and color of toads back in the basement window well. I want to know if they are returning? What’s the habit or nature of theses creatures?

    • Deb Platt says:

      Erin, someone else just wrote in to report they have also been finding toads in their basement window wells. I don’t know if they getting accidentally trapped. Since multiple people have described this occurrence, I am trying to contact a herpetologist for an answer.

  2. Julia Akers says:

    I have a deep window well and have seen a toad in it for about 2 weeks. Now I am seeing 4 little ones in there. My question is can they climb in and out. It is about 3 feet deep. I noticed they kinda bury themselfs under the pebbles when it is hot out.

    • Deb Platt says:

      Julia, I don’t honestly know the answer to this one. However, I note that I just received another comment from someone describing toads living in their window well, too, so it’s not just happening at your home. If you are worried that they can’t get out, you could try sticking a board diagonally in the window well. I was once at a camp site and discovered a raccoon trapped in a nearly empty dumpster. I stuck a branch into the dumpster that stretched from the bottom to beyond the outer rim. When I checked back a few hours later he was gone, so I think he used it to escape.

  3. Recently I’ve been hearing the sound of a tree frog in my house! Doesn’t seem to always be in the same area. Best way to locate it? No clue how it gained access to the inside.
    Thanks for answering.

    • Deb Platt says:

      Mavis, I wish I could give you some advice, buy I’ve never heard of a tree frog getting indoors before. Any chance the sound might be coming from a cricket?

  4. rebekah says:

    My friends kid keeps bringing toads home and not taking care of them. They die and he finds more. I was going to take the newest ones outside and set them free. We live in the Grove city area but he got them from hocking hills area. Where is a safe place to take them? Should they go near water or in a wooden area?

  5. michelle marlowe says:

    For more then several years now I have had little frogs/toads that I find in my flower beds or on the sidewalks around them and i just love them, 2 questions….,1. Is there a benefit to having them around besides to eat bugs and 2. Can you buy frogs and release them around your flower beds and/or gardens or would they not know how to defend themselves?

    • Anthony says:

      Yes, there are plenty of benefits having them around, and I’m sure you could buy these at a store and release them but I advise against it because if bought towards an older age they will not be suited for a wild habitat. If you proceed and do buy them DO NOT buy frogs, toads are the ones that are around your sidewalks and garden they prefer dry habitat while a frog wants very wet habitat with a pond.

  6. I’m responding to the lizard comment above. I have researched, kept, written about and photographed the local European Wall Lizards for many years. The local European Wall Lizard species Podarcis muralis does not have green on the top of its body. The species of wall lizard that does is Podarcis siculus and they do not live in the Cincinnati area. The two species are similar and both came from Italy. In the U.S., the Podarcis siculus wall lizard lives in southern California and New York city but are spreading. An article I wrote about the 3 European lizard species living in the United States can be seen here http://cavemanetris.hubpages.com/hub/Lizards-from-Italy-Living-in-the-USA. Photos are included in the article.

  7. Bruce says:

    I’ve never seen such a small frog before:
    While walking my dog at Frohring Meadows park in western Geauga County, he went off into the meadow, where plants are nearly 4-feet high, and came out a few minutes later.
    He had a bright green spot on his head that I thought was a leaf but was a bright green frog — solid green, as bright as the leaf in the above photo over the head of the Blanchard’s Cricket frog.
    It leaped off his head as I was reaching to brush it off.
    It was not bigger than my thumbnail, and I’ve never seen such a small amphibious critter before.
    The park has numerous ponds and wet sites, and I hear spring peepers and tree frogs all the time.
    Any idea what that little frog could’ve been?

    • Deb Platt says:

      All of the frogs in the “tree frog” category are very, very small. Given the green color that you described, I am guessing that it was either an Eastern Gray Treefrog or a Cope’s gray tree frogs. Despite the word, gray, in the name both of these can be green.

      Although I don’t have a photo showing the scale on these two tree frogs, I do have one of a Northern Spring Creeper. He’s clinging to the surface of a maple leaf, so the leaf itself provides some scale showing how tiny he is. The gray tree frogs are also tiny like this. Click on the image to see a larger version of the photo.

      201308_northern-spring-peeper-on-maple-leaf_9413594913

  8. Martha says:

    Need to ID a frog with a blue head, and the rest of him is bright green. He loves our swimming pool. We have grandkids coming to visit us soon, and wonder if he could be dangerous.

    • Deb Platt says:

      Sorry, I can’t help you out with this one. I don’t know of any frogs in Ohio that have blue heads. On the bright side, there are no toxic frogs in Ohio. However all toads can emit a toxin from glands right behind their eyes, but they do this when an animal has seized them to provoke the animal into spitting them back out.

  9. Daulton says:

    I am in central Ohio and I found a small frog that is just green and has small warts all on its back. The stomach is white. Any ideas on what this could be?

    • Deb Platt says:

      If it is warty, it is probably a toad. One way that you can confirm it’s a toad is to look for swellings on each side of the head behind the eyes. These swellings are called parotid glands. If an animal snatches up a toad with its mouth, the toad will emit toxins from these glands that may prompt the animal to spit it back out.

      We only have two species of toads in Ohio. Every single toad that I’ve seen while living in central Ohio has been an Eastern American toad, so I am assuming that they are much more common than the other species, the Fowler’s toad.

  10. Ali says:

    My grandmother lives in southern ohio and found a frog in her bathroom. She says it was bright lime green and had a stripe on it’s back. Possibly running diagonal. She may be confused on some of the details but any ideas on what type of frog it might have been?

  11. Ryan says:

    My puppy was just found chewing on one of these amphibians. Are any in NE Ohio known to be toxic?

    • Deb Platt says:

      Ryan, all toads excrete an alkaloid poison (bufotoxin) from the glands behind their eyes when they are afraid. I don’t personally know whether the bufotoxin excreted by Ohio toads pose a danger to dogs; however, I did do a web search when I read your question. According to Dr. Bari Spielman at petplace.com, the two species of toad in the United States that pose the greatest danger to dogs are the Colorado River toad (found in the southwestern U.S.) and the Marine toad (also known as the Cane toad; found in southern Florida and Texas). Neither of these species are found in Ohio.

      According to Dr. Spielman, here are the symptoms exhibited by dogs that have been poisoned by toads:

      • Mouth irritation with foamy salivation
      • Depression
      • Weakness
      • Collapse
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Seizures
      • Fever
      • Vomiting
      • Diarrhea

      Since it’s been over 12 hours since you posted your question, I hope your dog is doing okay.

  12. I found a small frog with a green back and brownish tan belly. Could it be a western chorus frog? I live in northern madison, ohio if that’s any help.

    • Deb Platt says:

      Almost every frog and toad species shows a lot of variation in color. I am tempted to think that the frog that you saw may have been the Northern Green Frog. Did it have any ridges on its back? Is there a picture of it online anywhere that would be visible to me like Flickr? Instagram?

  13. Kari Moon says:

    We just caught a released a HUGE frog in our pond. Obviously it’s so big that you assume it’s a bullfrog, but the bottom of the frog is throwing us off. it has a cool white and brown squiggly line action going on, very distinct. I’d love to e-mail someone a picture to show them this thing and just confirm it’s a bullfrog. The only other thing close that it looks like is the Northern Green Frog but it doesn’t have the ridges.

  14. Thanks for the comments distinguishing one from the other…very helpful!

  15. Pingback: Wood frog (Rana sylvatica) | College Green Magazine – Eco-news From The Ground Up

  16. RUTH HOPKINS says:

    I FOUND A TOAD RESEMBLING THE FOWLER OR EASTERN TOAD IN MY GARAGE AMOUNG SOME WET CARDBOARD BOXES ON THE FLOOR, BUT THE TOAD I FOUND HAD A DEFINITE BLUE COLOR MIXED IN WITH THE DARK BROWN OF IT’S BACK. ANY SUGGESTION AS TO THE IDENTITY? THANKS

    • Deb Platt says:

      Ruth, I don’t believe any of the toads in our state have a blue pigment. I am wondering if the blue color was transferred onto the toad from something it was crawling through. For instance, if you put down one of those plastic grocery bags on a wet counter, the pigment from the writing on the bag will transfer from the bag to the counter. So maybe there was some blue printing on the cardboard boxes, and the toad crawled through it. Or maybe there was some mold on the boxes (mold can have a bluish cast).

      If that’s not the case, I confess that you’ve totally stumped me.

      • Amy Miller says:

        we just found a frog exactly what ruth said but it was in our garden it was neon green with a bright blue streak down it back

        • Deb Platt says:

          I’m baffled by reports of frogs with blue streaks or blotches. I’ve wondered if this might be a lizard that has lost its tail (if a predator grabs the animal by the tail, the tail snaps off). There is a species of lizard that lives in the Cincinnati area that has blue markings. It’s known as a wall lizard. Jim McCormac has published a nice article about this lizard, including photos that show off its blue mark. You can see McCormac’s article here. Since its introduction to the area from Italy, the wall lizard population has grown to about a quarter million, and the lizard has spread into Indiana and Kentucky.

          I don’t have a photo of one myself, but here’s one that is licensed for free use that I found on Flickr.

          Photo courtesy of Ettore Balocchi, license: CC BY 2.0Squamata - Podarcis muralis-2

          Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

          Although the lizard in the above photo has a distinctly green back, the color varies. The photos of the one in the McCormac article show a wall lizard that isn’t green at all.

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