15 Types of Frogs Found in North Carolina! (ID Guide)
“What kind of frogs can you find in North Carolina?”
I love finding, observing, and hearing frogs!
Even as a kid, I used to patrol the swamps by my house, catching them and then trying to sell them as pets to cars passing by. As you can imagine, no one was interested in buying my frogs, and I ended up letting them go at the end of each day. 🙂
Today, I’m providing a guide to teach you about the different kinds of frogs found in North Carolina.
One of the BEST ways to find frogs is to learn the noises they make. So, in addition to pictures, you will find audio samples for each species below!
15 Frog Species in North Carolina:
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#1. American Bullfrog
- Lithobates catesbeianus
- Adult body lengths range from 3.6 to 6 inches.
- Coloration is typically olive green, with some individuals having gray or brown mottling or spots.
- Fully webbed back feet.
The American Bullfrog is the largest frog in North Carolina!
Believe it or not, they can grow to weigh as much as 1.5 pounds (.7 kg).
American Bullfrog Range Map
Green = native range. Red = introduced range.
Bullfrogs can be found in permanent bodies of water, including swamps, ponds, and lakes. During the breeding season, the male frogs select egg sites in shallow waters, which they defend aggressively. A female will then select a male by entering his territory.
They are named for their deep call, which is thought to sound like a bull bellowing.
Bullfrogs are known to 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!
#2. Green Frog
- Lithobates clamitans
- Adult body lengths range from 2 to 4 inches, and the females are typically larger than males.
- Coloration is normally green or brown with darker mottling or spots on the back.
- Ridges run down the sides of the back and they have webbed hind feet.
Green Frogs are one of the easiest frogs to find in North Carolina.
Green Frog Range Map
There are two different subspecies, the Northern Green Frog and the Bronze Frog, found in North Carolina. As the name suggests, Bronze Frogs have a bronze or brownish coloration instead of green like the Northern Green Frog.
Look for them in permanent bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, swamps, and streams. They spend most of their time near the shoreline but jump into deeper water when approached. They also breed and lay eggs near the shore, typically in areas with aquatic vegetation.
The Green Frog produces a single note call that is relatively easy to identify. Listen for a noise that sounds like a plucked banjo string, which is often repeated.
To hunt, they use a “sit and wait” approach, so they are fairly opportunistic. Green Frogs will try to eat almost anything they can fit inside their mouth. The list includes spiders, insects, fish, crayfish, snails, slugs, small snakes, and even other frogs!
#3. Spring Peeper
- Pseudacris crucifer
- Adults are small and range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
- They’re typically tan or brown, with the females being lighter in color.
- Both males and females usually feature a darker cross or ‘X’ on their back.
These tiny frogs can be found all over North Carolina.
You’ll typically spot Spring Peepers on the forest floor among the leaves. However, they do have large toe pads that they use for climbing trees.
Spring Peeper Range Map
You can find them in ponds and small bodies of water in the spring, where they breed and lay eggs. After hatching, the young frogs remain in the tadpole stage for about three months before leaving the water.
Spring Peepers get their name from their distinctive spring chorus. They’re thought to sound a bit like baby chickens’ peeps, and they are most often heard in early spring! LISTEN BELOW!
Their calls are very distinctive, and once you know what to listen for, these frogs are very easy to identify by sound.
#4. Gray Treefrog
- Dryophytes versicolor
- 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.
Chameleons aren’t the only animal that can change colors! This incredible frog can slowly change colors to match what it’s sitting on to camouflage itself. 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 North Carolina. You’ll spot them in a wide variety of wooded habitats, from backyards to forests to swamps.
Gray Treefrog 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, which is commonly heard in spring and summer.
*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.*
#5. Pickerel Frog
- Lithobates palustris
- Adult body length ranges from 2 to 4 inches.
- Dark green-brown coloration with two rows of dark squarish spots running down its back. Bright yellow color on the underside of hind legs.
- Females are typically darker and larger than males.
Pickerel Frogs prefer cool, clear waters in North Carolina. You can find them in ponds, rivers, lakes, slow-moving streams, and even ditches.
Pickerel Frog Range Map
During the breeding season, the males attract females with a low, snore-like call. The females will attach egg masses to branches in cool water, where the tadpoles will spend 87-95 days before becoming frogs.
Pickerel Frogs are the ONLY poisonous frog native to North Carolina.
When attacked, they produce toxic skin irritations that can be fatal to other animals and may cause skin irritation in humans if handled. As you can imagine, most predators leave them alone!
#6. Southern Leopard Frog
- Lithobates sphenocephalus
- Adult body lengths range from 2 to 3.5 inches.
- Coloration is brownish to green with large darker green or brown spots on its back, sides, and legs.
- Lighter ridges extend down the sides of the back, and the upper jaw sometimes has a light, yellow stripe.
The Southern Leopard Frog will occupy various freshwater habitats in North Carolina. They are more terrestrial than many other true frogs and are often seen far from water. It’s also common to spot these frogs out on rainy nights!
Southern Leopard Frog Range Map
They breed during the winter and spring, particularly during periods of heavy rainfall. These frogs often nest communally, and the females attach egg masses to aquatic vegetation.
Make sure to listen for their low, chuckling croak! Some people describe the sound like a “squeaky balloon” or a “ratchet-like trill.”
For food, Southern Leopard Frogs primarily eat invertebrates, such as insects and crayfish.
#7. Northern Cricket Frog
- Acris crepitans
- Adults from 0.75 to 1.5 inches long.
- Irregular color patterns including grays, greens, browns, yellows, and blacks.
- A dark triangular spot between the eyes, blunt snout, warts, and dark banding on the legs.
This frog is one of the smallest vertebrates found in North Carolina!
But even though they are tiny, they can jump over 3 FEET in a single jump to escape predators, in addition to being excellent swimmers.
Northern Cricket Frog Range Map
Although Northern Cricket Frogs are part of the treefrog family, they don’t spend much time in trees. Typically you can find them in ponds and lakes with plentiful vegetation as well as slow-moving rivers.
This frog gets its name from its unique call. As you can probably guess, the Northern Cricket Frog makes a breeding call that sounds like the repeating chirp of a cricket.
#8. Southern Cricket Frog
- Acris gryllus
- Adults are small and range from 0.5 to 1.25 inches long.
- Irregular color patterns, including black, brown, red, green, and gray.
- Dark triangle between their eyes and a bright-colored stripe running from their snout down their back.
This tiny frog is a great jumper, reaching heights of more than 60 times its body length!
Southern Cricket Frog Range Map
In North Carolina, the Southern Cricket Frog is primarily found in coastal plain bogs, bottomland swamps, ponds, and wet ditches. This species is extremely similar in both appearance and behavior to the Northern Cricket Frog.
As the name suggests, Southern Cricket Frogs give a distinctive, repetitive cricket-like chirping call.
#9. American Green Treefrog
- Dryophytes cinereus
- Adults can grow up to 2.5 inches long and have smooth skin.
- Yellowish-green to lime green with pale yellow or white undersides.
- White stripes down their sides sometimes have black borders.
Even though they are common in their range, Green Treefrogs can be hard to find in North Carolina since they spend most of their lives high in trees. They also can change color based on light and temperature.
American Green Treefrog Range Map
During mating season, they visit ponds, lakes, marshes, and streams to breed and lay eggs. They prefer bodies of water with a lot of vegetation.
Their breeding call is a repeated, abrupt, nasal “bark.“ Sound is typically the best way to locate these treefrogs.
Green Treefrogs are often kept as pets. They are popular because of their attractive appearance, size, and how easy it is to take care of them. For example, they don’t require artificial heating like most amphibians. But being nocturnal, it’s unlikely you will see them moving around much, so they are probably not the most exciting pets!
#10. Pine Woods Treefrog
- Dryophytes femoralis
- Adults range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
- Mottled coloring including browns, grays, reddish-brown, and grayish-green with dark markings on the back.
- Yellow, orange, or white dots can be seen on the back of the thigh when the leg is extended.
You’ll find the Pine Woods Treefrog in North Carolina in pine flatwoods, pine-oak forests, and cypress swamps. Spending most of their time high in the trees, these frogs have large sticky toe pads and minimally webbed feet.
Pine Woods Treefrog Range Map
During the breeding season, you can spot them in or near fish-free bodies of water, including shallow ponds, marshes, wetlands, cypress swamps, and ditches. The female lays eggs in shallow water where the tadpoles will live for about two months as they change into frogs.
These frogs give a unique sporadic or staccato chattering mating call which has earned it the nickname “the Morse code frog.”
#11. Barking Treefrog
- Dryophytes gratiosus
- Adults range from 2 to 2.8 inches long.
- Most often bright green, but may also be gray, brown, or yellowish with dark spots on its back.
- Uniformly rough skin with light stripes down its sides.
The Barking Treefrog is the largest native treefrog in North Carolina!
Barking Treefrog Range Map
You can spot Barking Treefrogs in various woodland habitats where they spend most of their time in trees and bushes. During the breeding season, they visit fishless wetlands where the female will lay her eggs. They also sometimes burrow into mud or rotten logs where they’re protected from predators.
These frogs are named for their explosive, loud “tonk” call, repeated every 1-2 seconds.
#12. Squirrel Treefrog
- Dryophytes squirellus
- Adults are around 1.5 inches long.
- Typically green, although individuals may be varying shades of yellow or brown with white or brown blotching.
- The upper lip is often yellowish, and they sometimes feature whitish stripes.
These small frogs are found in North Carolina in a variety of urbanized and natural habits.
Squirrel Treefrog Range Map
They can be seen on trees and buildings, in backyards, pine-oak forests, hardwood forests, floodplains, and pine flat woods. You might even find them visiting your porch to catch bugs that are attracted to the lights!
To breed, they visit wetlands like ephemeral pools, roadside ditches, and other small water bodies that lack predatory fish.
During the breeding season, you may hear their raspy, duck-like call.
#13. Little Grass Frog
- Pseudacris ocularis
- Adults are tiny and are around 0.75 inches long or less.
- Coloration is typically a pale brown or gray with a yellow or whitish underside, but individuals may have a green or pink tinge.
- A dark stripe extends from the nostril through the eye and down the side.
The Little Grass Frog is the smallest frog in North Carolina!
Little Grass Frog Range Map
These frogs can climb trees and bushes, but they are most frequently seen in marshy areas on grasses and sedges. During the breeding season, they visit shallow, often semi-permanent grass-filled water sources such as wetlands, roadside ditches, and seasonal ponds.
Listen for the males’ mating call, which is a high-pitched chirp or “tinkling” sound that is repeated every couple of seconds.
#14. River Frog
- Lithobates heckscheri
- Adults are 3 to 5 inches long.
- Rough, wrinkled skin that is dark to blackish green with a dark gray.
- Distinctive white spots on lips, particularly the lower lip, which distinguishes them from bullfrogs.
Contrary to its name, the River Frog can be found in North Carolina in various aquatic habitats, including lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, and streams. Unlike many aquatic frog species, the River Frog is easy to approach!
River Frog Range Map
The females lay eggs in large floating masses amongst aquatic vegetation. Once hatched, tadpoles may take up to two years to mature into adult frogs.
To attract a mate, males produce a deep, low, roaring snore-like call.
#15. Pine Barrens Treefrog
- Dryophytes andersonii
- Small species being only 1 – 3 inches in length.
- Mostly green colored, with dark, wide stripes.
- A distinguishing feature is a white-bordered purple stripe on the sides of their body.
To find these beautiful, tiny frogs in eastern North Carolina, you need to look down instead of up! They spend most of their time on the ground, typically in brushy, mossy areas near water.
Pine Barrens Treefrog Range Map
Pine Barrens Treefrogs prefer low pH levels, which is unique for most amphibians. Females lay their eggs in shallow, acidic pools. Because of this adaptation, the tadpoles don’t have to compete with other tree frog species!
Populations of these frogs are declining. Their official conservation status is “Near Threatened,” but they were once considered endangered back in the 1980s. Loss of habitat is their main threat, as many of the small, acidic pools they rely upon have been drained for development.
Pine Barrens Treefrogs make a unique breeding call!
Listen for a “honk-honk-honk,” which reminds me of the sound of a duck!
Do you need additional help identifying frogs?
Try this field guide!
Which of these frogs have you seen in North Carolina?
Leave a comment below!
I live in Jacksonville, NC and I caught a small black frog that was sticky and I can’t seem to find anything anywhere telling me what kind it is. Can you help me?