CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California





Identifying California Frogs and Toads

 






California Frogs and Toads:








observation link

 


This is not a scientific key to identifying frogs and toads found in California. It is meant to be used as a basic tool for the novice who wants identify a frog or toad primarily by appearance.

If you have any problems with this key, or suggestions on how to improve it, please send me feedback.


1. Does the frog or toad you want to identify have enlarged toe pads or straight toes?

toes
toes
toes
Enlarged Toe Tips
Click Here
Straight Toe Tips
Go to part 2 directly below
   

2. Frogs and Toads with toe tips that are straight (not enlarged)



Does the frog or toad have vertical or horizontal pupils?


eye
eye
eye
Horizontal Pupils
Go to Part 4
Vertical Pupils
Go to part 3 directly below
   

3. Frogs and Toads with toe tips that are straight (not enlarged) and vertical pupils


Does the frog or toad have a hardened black spade on the back of the hind feet, or a dark line through the eye?

spade toes eye stripe
Black Spade on Hind Feet
Click Here (Spadefoots)
No Spade on Hind Feet
Click Here (Coastal Tailed Frog)
Dark line through the eye
Click Here (Coastal Tailed Frog)
     

4. Frogs and Toads with straight or unenlarged toe tips and horizontal pupils


Does the frog or toad have rough, warty skin, with enlarged parotoid glands behind the eyes, or smooth skin and no parotoid glands?

toad skin
parotoid
(Do not confuse parotoids with the rounded tympanum, or eardrum on a
frog or toad which is behind the eye,
but is not raised up.)
Rough Skin
Enlarged Parotoid Glands
 
     

Toads - Click Here


frog skin
frog
 
Smooth Skin
No Parotoid Glands
 
     

Frogs - Go to part 5
directly below


5. Frogs with straight or unenlarged toe tips, horizontal pupils, no spade on rear feet, and smooth skin with no enlarged parotoid glands behind the eyes


Does the frog have a distinct dorsolateral fold (a raised ridge on the upper sides of the body)?

folds
no folds
 
Distinct Dorsolateral Folds
Click Here
None, or indistinct Dorsolateral Folds
Go to part 6 directly below
 
     

6. Frogs with straight or unenlarged toe tips, horizontal pupils, no spade on rear feet, smooth skin with no enlarged parotoid glands behind the eyes, and indistinct dorsolateral folds


Does the frog have a ridge above and behind the eardrum behind the eye and and does it have some green coloring?

frog frog
Green or partly green frog with a ridge above and behind the eardrum behind the eye
Click Here (Bullfrog)
No ridge above and behind the eardrum behind the eye

Go to part 7
directly below
 
     

7. Frogs with straight or unenlarged toe tips, horizontal pupils, no spade on rear feet, smooth skin with no enlarged parotoid glands behind the eyes, indistinct dorsolateral folds, and no ridge above and behind the eardrum behind the eye


Does the frog have small upturned eyes with no eyelids, and sharp black claws on the inner toes (and is found mostly in water) or does it have yellow under the legs?


belly
          Claws                                               Small Upturned Eyes

Click Here (African Clawed Frog)
No claws or upturned eyes,
yellow under the legs
Go to part 8 directly below
   

8. Frogs with straight or unenlarged toe tips, horizontal pupils, no spade on rear feet, smooth skin with no enlarged parotoid glands behind the eyes, indistinct dorsolateral folds, no ridge above and behind the eardrum behind the eye, small upturned eyes with no eyelids. and yellow under the legs


Yellow-legged Frogs


These frogs are difficult to tell apart, however they most likely do not occur near each other anymore. Both have disappeared from most of their former habitat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Southern California Mountains. Use the range maps to tell which species you have.
 
Does the frog occur in high elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (or in mountains in Southern California)?
 

Yes, it is in the central and northern Sierra Nevada -
(Red range on map)
Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog - Click Here


frog frog range map
Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog
Rana sierrae
Underside Historic Range: Red
     

Yes, in the southern Sierra Nevada and southern California mountains - (Orange range on map)
Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog - Click Here


frog frog range map
Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog
Rana muscosa
  Historic Range: Orange

No - Foothill Yellow-legged Frog - Click Here


frog frog range map
Foothill Yellow-legged Frog
Rana boylii


Underside Historic Range: Red
(This frog is no longer found in the southern California mountains.)


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