Frogs and Toads of Alabama
The frog species in Alabama come from two families, Ranidae – the true frog family and Hylidae – the tree frog family. There are numerous species of frogs from both families that are found in the state.
Alabama contains 9 frogs from the family Ranidae, the True Frog family.
American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
The American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus, is the largest frog in the North America. It looks very similar to the Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans, but the dorsal ridge wraps around the tympanum while the Green Frog’s dorsal ridge is incomplete and does not extend all the way to its rear. The American Bullfrog is also very similar to the Pig Frog, Lithobates grylio, but the Pig Frog has bolder spots / stripes on the back of its thighs while the Bullfrog has light spots.
Dusky Gopher Frog
Mississippi Gopher Frog or Dusky Gopher Frog, Lithobates sevosus, is a critically endangered frog and is mostly extinct in Alabama so if you think you see it, it is more likely to be the Gopher Frog, Lithobates capito.
River Frog, Lithobates heckscheri, does not have a dorsal ridge which is a key identification characteristic. Its skin is also a lot more rough and wrinkly than another true frogs.
Southern Leopard Frog
Pickeral Frog, Lithobates palustris and the Southern Leopard Frog, Lithobates palustris, look very much a like. The Pickeral Frog has more square shaped spots on its back while the Southern Leopard frog has more circular ones.
Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus, is a very easy to identify because of their mask around their face.
Alabama is blessed with a variety of tree frogs, 15 to be exact. They fall into 3 genera: the Cricket Frogs – Acris, Chorus Frogs – Pseudacris, and regular tree frogs – Hyla
Cricket Frogs – Acris
Northern Cricket Frog
Southern Cricket Frog
The Cricket Frogs look really similar but there’s a few ways to tell them apart. The Southern Cricket Frog, Acris gryllus, has a more pointed snout while the Northern Cricket Frog, Acris crepitans, has a more blunt snout. The Southern Cricket Frog doesn’t have as much webbing on the back legs as the Northern Cricket Frog.
Chorus Frogs – Pseudacris
Mountain Chorus Frog
Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer, and the Mountain Chorus Frog, Pseudacris brachyphona, are similar but the markings on their back can be used to tell them apart. The Spring Peeper has an X on its back while the Mountain Chorus Frog has 2 backwards parenthesizes that look like )(. Sometimes they touch that can kinda look like an x but there’s also a dark triangle between its eyes that the Spring Peeper doesn’t have.
Upland Chorus Frog
Southern Chorus Frog
The Upland Chorus Frog, Pseudacris feriarum, and the Southern Chorus Frog, Pseudacris nigrita, look extremely alike. The main differences is in their calls and where they are found. The Upland Chorus Frog is found in the Piedmont and Mountain areas while the Southern Chorus Frog is found in the Coastal Plains.
Little Grass Frog
Ornate Chorus Frog
The Ornate Chorus Frog, Pseudacris ornata, and the Little Grass Frog, Pseudacris ocularis, can appear similar in pictures but the Little Grass Frog is really tiny. Its usually about a half an inch big. Also the dark band that runs down the side of the Little Grass Frog is uninterrupted while the Ornate Chorus Frog has breaks.
Tree Frogs – Hyla
Pine Barrons Tree Frog, Hyla andersonii, is identifiable because of its purple stripe from its eye down its side.
Green Tree Frog
Barking Tree Frog
Squirrel Tree Frog
The Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), Squirrel Tree Frog (Hyla squirella), and Barking Tree Frog (Hyla gratiosas) are all very similar. The Barking Tree Frog has much rougher skin than the others. The Green Tree Frog has a white line down its back.
Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
The Cope’s Gray Tree Frog, Hyla chrysoscelis, Pinewoods Frog, Hyla femoralis, and the Bird-Voiced Frog,Hyla avivoca, look very much a like. The difference is the coloration on the inner thigh. Cope’s Gray Tree Frog has brighter orange color on the thigh while the Bird-Voiced Frog is more greenish-yellow. The Pinewoods Frog has dots / spots on the inner thigh.
The Oak Toad, Anaxyrus quercicus, is the most easily identifiable toad out of the group of four. It is the smallest of the group and has a light line down its back. The Oak Toad also has orange on the bottom of its feet. The remaining three species of toads in Alabama are a lot harder to distinguish between. To identify the differences, you have to look at the top of the head. The Southern Toad, Anaxyrus terrestris, has knobs on the back of its head. The Fowler’s Toad’s, Anaxyrus fowleri, parotid gland touches its postorbital ridge around its eye while the American Toads’s, Anaxyrus americanus, parotid gland does not touch or connected to it by a spur. Here’s an easy map I found that helps me.
The Eastern Narrow Mouthed Toad, Gastrophryne carolinensis, is the only narrow mouthed toad in Alabama. One could potentially misidentify it has a Spadefoot toad because of its burrowing lifestyle but the head is narrower and there’s no spade on the back feet.
The Eastern Spadefoot Toad, Scaphiopus holbrookii, is the only Spadefoot toad in Alabama so it can easily be identified because of the spade on its back legs.