9 COMMON Amphibians in Arizona (ID Guide)

Are you wondering what amphibians you can find in Arizona?

common amphibians in arizona

 

This is a great question! Although amphibians are widespread, they can be challenging to locate. Most amphibians, including frogs, toads, and salamanders, are secretive and shy. But in my opinion, looking for amphibians is a really fun experience!

 

Below you will find a list of the most COMMON and interesting amphibians that live in Arizona. In addition, you will find detailed pictures, along with range maps for each species to help with your identification!

 

 

9 Types of Amphibians That Live in Arizona:


#1. American Bullfrog

  • Lithobates catesbeianus

Types of amphibians in arizona

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult body lengths range from 3.6 to 6 inches.
  • Coloration is typically olive green, with some individuals having gray or brown spots.
  • Fully webbed back feet.

 

The American Bullfrog is one of the largest amphibians in Arizona!

 

Believe it or not, they can grow to weigh as much as 1.5 pounds (.7 kg). Bullfrogs can be found in permanent bodies of water, including swamps, ponds, and lakes.

American Bullfrog Range Map

american bullfrog range map

Green: native range. Red: introduced range.

 

Bullfrogs eat just about anything they can fit in their mouth and swallow! The list of prey includes other frogs, fish, turtles, small birds, bats, rodents, insects, crustaceans, and worms. I have personally witnessed one even trying to eat a baby duck!

 

 

They are named for their deep call, which is thought to sound like a bull bellowing.

 


#2. Northern Leopard Frog

  • Lithobates pipiens

species of amphibians in arizona

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 2 to 4.5 inches long.
  • Smooth skin is green, brown, or yellow-green with large dark spots.
  • Lighter-colored raised ridges extend down the length of the back.

 

You can spot these amphibians in Arizona near slow-moving bodies of water with lots of vegetation. Northern Leopard Frogs are easy to see in or near ponds, lakes, streams, and marshes. I love how bright green most individuals appear!

Northern Leopard Frog Range Map

northern leopard frog range map

Due to their fairly large size, these amphibians eat various foods, including worms, crickets, flies, small frogs, snakes, and birds. In one study, a bat was even observed being eaten!

 

During the spring breeding season, the males will float in shallow pools emitting a low call thought to sound like snoring. However, the Northern Leopard Frog may also make a high, loud, screaming call if captured or startled.

 

Northern Leopard Frog populations are declining in many areas, and the cause is not exactly known. It’s thought to be a combination of habitat loss, drought, introduced fish, environmental contaminants, and disease.

 


#3. Boreal Chorus Frog

  • Pseudacris maculata

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
  • Coloration is brown, olive green, or tan, with three dark stripes down the back that are sometimes broken into blotches.
  • Prominent black stripe on each side from nostril, through the eye, and down the sides to the groin.
  • Looks very similar to the Western Chorus Frog. Boreal Chorus Frogs are distinguished by having shorter legs.

 

While the Boreal Chorus Frog is a common amphibian in Arizona, they are rarely seen. They’re small and secretive, inhabiting moist meadows and forests near wetlands.

Boreal Chorus Frog Range Map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGSchorus frog range map - boreal, western, upland

These amphibians breed in shallow temporary ponds and pools such as flooded fields and roadside ditches. They require waters free of fish; otherwise, predators would eat most of their eggs and tadpoles!

 

Males produce a loud chorus of calls at breeding sites, which are easy to identify.

 

The sound has been compared to someone running a finger over the teeth of a comb (“reeeek“). You’re most likely to hear the calls in the late afternoon or evening.

 


#4. Pacific Treefrog

  • Pseudacris regilla

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults can reach 2 inches long, with the males typically being smaller.
  • Most are green or brown with pale white undersides, but some are reddish, gray, cream, or black.
  • Dark mask across the eyes to the shoulders and uniformly bumpy skin.

 

These amphibians can be found in a wide range of elevations in Arizona, ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet (3,050 m)!

 

Pacific Treefrog Range Map

pacific tree frog range map

Look for Pacific Treefrogs in woodlands and meadows. Interestingly, these amphibians spend most of their time on the ground despite being a treefrog. They even hide from predators in underground burrows!

 

Also called the Pacific Chorus Frog, this species can be heard during the spring. Their mating call is a two-part call that sounds like “kreck-ek” or “rib-bit.

 


#5. Canyon Treefrog

  • Dryophytes arenicolor

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 1 to 2 inches in length.
  • Typically brown, gray-brown, tan, or gray-green with darker, irregular blotches on the back. They often match the color of their habitat.
  • They sometimes appear golden in direct sunlight, and the inside of the hind legs is bright yellow.

 

These amphibians are found in rocky areas in Arizona. Despite their name, Canyon Treefrogs don’t live in trees but are mainly found perched on boulders and rock faces near permanent water sources.

Canyon Treefrog Range Map

canyon tree frog range map

During the hottest part of the day and periods of low rainfall, Canyon Frogs will seek shelter in rock crevices. They sometimes cluster together in these areas to help reduce moisture loss. They also have tougher skin on their back than most frog species to help them cope with their hot, dry climate.

 

You may hear the male’s low call during the breeding season, which is sometimes thought to sound like a distant sheep or goat. However, since they are nocturnal, your best bet is to hear one at night.

 


#6. Great Plains Toad

  • Anaxyrus cognatus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult length is 2-4 ½ inches.
  • Coloring is pale white to tan or olive with large, dark-colored pairs of blotches down the back. Lighter tan or white belly.
  • A crest on the head forms a “V” shape from the snout, moving outward on the head toward the back.

 

Great Plains Toads are found in temporary shallow pools, quiet streams, marshes, or irrigation ditches. They are most common in grasslands and can be found in desert brush and woodland areas.

Great Plains Toad Range Map:

 

Only a few weeks out of the year are suitable for the Great Plains Toad to feed and reproduce. Amazingly, they spend the rest of the year mostly dormant in underground burrows made by other animals.

 

Symmetrical dark splotches running down its back make this amphibian one of the easier toads to see, but you will probably hear one nearby long before you can spot it. Its call can last more than 50 seconds and is similar to a jackhammer!

 

When large groups of Great Plains Toads call, the sound can be near-deafening!

 


#7. Woodhouse’s Toad

  • Anaxyrus woodhousii

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult length is 2 ½-4 inches.
  • Coloring ranges from gray to yellowish or olive green.
  • The belly is light tan or buff, with very few dark spots on the chest.

 

Woodhouse’s Toads are adaptable to many environments, including grasslands, deserts, floodplains, and developed areas. Interestingly, individuals that live in suburban areas will wait under street lamps to catch and eat insects attracted to the light.

Woodhouse’s Toad Range Map:

 

The most striking feature of these amphibians is their shape – they are round and stout, with short legs that look too small to support their bodies!

 

Woodhouse’s Toads have a very short call that resembles a distressed sheep’s bleat.

 


#8. Colorado River Toad

  • Incilius alvarius

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult length is 4-7 ½ inches; the Colorado River Toad is the largest toad native to North America.
  • Very large glands on either side of the head produce its powerful venom.
  • Coloring is dark brown or olive to gray, with smooth skin and a few warts on the hind legs.

 

The Colorado River Toad has a reputation as the “Psychedelic Toad”!

 

Its venom is illegally harvested and used as a hallucinogenic drug, and it is even classified as a controlled substance. It is also dangerous to most animals, and large dogs who accidentally eat them have been known to be paralyzed or even die from the poison.

Colorado River Toad Range Map:

 

Though not widespread, this amphibian has a large population in Arizona.

 

The Colorado River Toad’s call lasts under a second and has been compared to the whistle of a ferryboat.

 

In Arizona, laws and regulations have been put in place to prevent the use of the Colorado River Toad’s venom as a drug. For example, it can’t be moved across state lines, and if a person is found in possession of one with the intent to use its venom as a drug, they can be arrested or fined.

 


#9. Western Tiger Salamander

  • Ambystoma mavortium

Identifying Characteristics

  • Adults range from 3 to 6.5 inches in length.
  • Their coloring is greenish-yellow with black markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail.
  • This species has a thick body and neck and a short snout.

 

Western Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground. You’re most likely to see these amphibians moving about and foraging on rainy nights. Their favorite hiding spots are burrows, which they can make themselves or borrow from other animals.

Interestingly, Western Tiger Salamanders have four distinct morphs as adults. Scientists classify them by whether they are aquatic or terrestrial and what they eat. For example, a typical Western Tiger Salamander eats insects and frogs, breathes above water, and spends time on land.

 

However, there is a terrestrial morph that cannibalizes other Western Tiger Salamanders! In addition, there are cannibalistic and non-cannibalistic AQUATIC morphs that have gills and breathe underwater.

The aquatic individuals are called paedomorphs, and while they are mature and able to reproduce normally, they retain a lot of the features of larval Western Tiger Salamanders. The most obvious feature is their frilly, long gills!

 


What types of amphibians in Arizona have you seen?

 

Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Reply