9 COMMON Amphibians in Nebraska (ID Guide)

Are you wondering what amphibians you can find in Nebraska?

common amphibians in nebraska

 

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 Nebraska. 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 Nebraska:


#1. American Bullfrog

  • Lithobates catesbeianus

Types of amphibians in nebraska

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 Nebraska!

 

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 nebraska

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 Nebraska 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. Gray Treefrog

  • Dryophytes versicolor

gray tree frog - common amphibians in nebraska

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult body lengths range from 1.5 to 2 inches.
  • Mottled gray, green, and brown coloring. Look for a whitish spot beneath each eye.
  • Bumpy skin, short snouts, and bright orange on the undersides of their legs.
  • *Gray Treefrogs are essentially identical to Cope’s Gray Treefrogs. The only way to tell the difference is to listen to their breeding calls. You can learn more by visiting this site.*

 

Chameleons aren’t the only animal that can change colors! This incredible amphibian can slowly change colors to camouflage itself and match what it’s sitting on. They can vary from gray to green or brown. It’s common for their back to display a mottled coloring, much like lichen.

 

Gray Treefrogs are ubiquitous throughout their range. You’ll spot them in various wooded habitats, from backyards to forests to swamps. Like most amphibians in Nebraska, they tend to live close to a water source.

Gray Treefrog Range Map

gray tree frog range map

They stick to the treetops until it’s time to breed. Gray Treefrogs prefer to mate and lay eggs in woodland ponds without fish. They’ll also use swamps and garden water features.

 

Gray Treefrogs are easier to hear than to see.

Listen for a high trill that lasts about 1 second, commonly heard in spring and summer.

 


#4. Western Chorus Frog

  • Pseudacris triseriata

western chorus frog - types of amphibians in nebraska

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult body length up to 1.6 inches long.
  • Smooth skin with color that varies from gray to green or brown.
  • Dark brown or gray stripes run down the back, a dark stripe from the snout through the eye, and a white stripe on the upper lip.
  • Also called the Midland Chorus Frog.

 

In Nebraska, look for these amphibians in woodland ponds, marshes, swamps, meadows, and grassy pools.

Western Chorus Frog Range Map

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

For breeding, they try to find bodies of water without fish, including flooded fields, beaver ponds, roadside ditches, marshes, and shallow lakes and ponds. The female attaches small masses of eggs to underwater vegetation.

 

Western Chorus Frogs are secretive and nocturnal, so they can be hard to spot. Your best way to locate one is to use your ears. Listen for a unique call that is rapid and relatively short and sounds a bit like running your finger over the teeth of a comb. PRESS PLAY BELOW.

 

 


#5. Boreal Chorus Frog

  • Pseudacris maculata

boreal chorus frog

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 Nebraska, 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.

 


#6. Great Plains Toad

  • Anaxyrus cognatus

species of amphibians in the united states

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. Eastern Tiger Salamander

  • Ambystoma tigrinum

species of amphibians in the united states

Identifying Characteristics

  • Adults range from 6 to 8 inches in length.
  • Their coloring is dark gray, brown, or black with brownish-yellow to greenish-yellow 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, short snout, strong legs, and a lengthy tail.

 

These amphibians are one of the largest salamanders in eastern Nebraska.

 

Eastern Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground in woods, grasslands, or marshes. You’re most likely to see them moving about and foraging on rainy nights.

 

Their diet is primarily made up of insects, worms, slugs, and frogs. However, if there’s a prey shortage, they become much less picky. They’ve been observed feeding on baby snakes, newborn mice, and small salamanders of other species. They will even cannibalize their own young in times of low food supply!

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Although Eastern and Western Tiger Salamanders are closely related, it would be unusual to mix up these two species. First, they rarely share the same range and aren’t often seen together. Secondly, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are much larger and have a black patch on their snout.

 


#9. Western Tiger Salamander

  • Ambystoma mavortium

kinds of amphibians in the united states

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 Nebraska have you seen?

 

Let us know in the comments!

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