Field Guides

Frogs and Toads of Missouri

Differences between toads and frogs:

Frogs and Toads are under the same order, Anura. True frogs belong to the family Ranidae, and true toads belong to the family Bufonidae. A true frog has smooth, moist skin and long legs for leaping. They lay eggs in clusters with young living in water. Adult frogs live in moist environments. They have vomerine teeth in their upper jaw, and their eyes bulge out. A true toad has dry, warty skin and short legs for hopping. They lay eggs in long chains or give live birth, and the young live in the water. They keep mostly on land but can adapt to moist environments. Toads have no teeth at all. Their eyes do not bulge out, and they may have a poison paratoid gland behind their eyes. 


Vomerine – a thin flat bone dividing the nostrils found in most vertebrates. 

Paratoid/parotoid gland – a gland found on the neck, back, or shoulder of toads that secretes an alkaloid toxin that deters predators. It is also called bufotoxin and acts as a neurotoxin.

Tibia – a strong bone in the leg of vertebrates.

Dorsal – situated towards the back.

Posterior – located towards the rear end of something.

Dorsolateral ridge – a fold of skin beginning behind the eye that continues towards the rear legs. 

Species commonly found in Missouri:

Species less commonly found in Missouri:

  • Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii holbrookii), may be found in southeastern tip of Missouri
  • Plains Spadefoot (Scaphiopus bombifrons), may be found in north-central Missouri
  • Great Plains Toad (Bufo cognatus), may be found from northwestern tip to central Missouri
  • Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea), may be found in southeastern tip of Missouri, an isolated colony in south-central Missouri
  • Illinois Chorus Frog (Pseudacris streckeri illinoensis), found in southeastern tip of Missouri
  • Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis), found in southern half of Missouri
  • Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota), may be found from southeastern Missouri to northeastearn tip to southwestern tip
  • Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris), may be found throughout Missouri except for northwestern half and southeastern tip
  • Northern Crawfish Frog (Rana a. circulosa) may be found from southwest tip of Missouri to northeast Missouri, except for the northwest tip


An american toad. Notice the warts and dark coloration.

American Toad:

The american toad ranges from 5.1-9 cm. Most have one or two large warts in each of the largest dark spots on their body. The chest and front of the abdomen are usually spotted with dark color. They have enlarged warts on their tibia and a parotoid gland that may be separated behind the eye or connected by a short spur. Coloration varies by region, but is generally a darker color. The dwarf version of the toad is less than 6.4 cm, and is often reddish. Dorsal spots if present only include a single wart. American toads can be found throughout the northwestern part of Missouri, while the dwarf american toad can be found everywhere but the northwest part of Missouri. Live around shallow bodies of water as they are needed to breed. Have a long call that lasts from 6-30 seconds.


A Fowler’s toad. Notice the warts and gray/brown coloration and the thin white stripe on its back.

Fowler’s Toad:

The Fowler’s toad ranges from 5.1-7.5 cm. They have 3 or more warts in each of the largest dark spots. The chest is unspotted, and the tibia does not have enlarged warts. They have a paratoid gland that touches the cranial ridge behind the eye. Coloration varies, but is generally a brown or gray. They often have a thin white stripe down their back. Fowler’s toad may be found in east Missouri. Mainly found in sandy areas like around lakes or in river valleys. Call is a short “w-a-a-a-h” 1-4 seconds.


Woodhouse’s toad. Notice the prominent light middorsal stripe.

Woodhouse’s Toad:

The Woodhouse’s toad is between 6.4-10 cm. They have a light middorsal stripe, prominent cranial crests, and elongated paratoid glands. They may have one or several warts on dark spots. The belly is generally white or yellowish. Woodhouse’s toad may be found in west Missouri. Prefer wet environments like marshes and rivers. Call is a very short, nasal “w-a-a-a-h” 1-2.5 seconds.


A Blanchard’s cricket frog. Notice the uniform brown coloration and dark, ragged stripes on the thigh.

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog:

They range between 1.6-3.8 cm. They have a dark stripe on the thigh that is ragged. They are generally a light brown or gray color, which is usually uniform throughout the body. Blanchard’s cricket frog can be found throughout Missouri. Live in habitats with permanent bodies of shallow water that have vegetation cover, as well as slow moving streams. Call sounds like clicking pebbles together rapidly.


A northern spring peeper. Notice the distinct black X on its back.

Northern Spring Peeper:

The spring peeper is 1.9-3.2 cm. The northern version has a plain belly compared to the southern version. They have a dark cross on their back that resembles an imperfect X. They range in color between yellow, brown, gray, or olive. Can be found throughout all of Missouri except the northwestern tip. Can be found in wet, woody areas, like areas where trees and shrubs are in water. Call is a high piping whistle repeated on one second intervals.


A western chorus frog. Notice the three broad stripes on its back.

Western Chorus Frog:

The western chorus frog can be between 1.9-3.9 cm. They normally have three broad dark stripes down their back. The middle stripe may fork into two parts on the posterior. There may be a dark triangle or figure between the eyes. They always have a light line along their upper lip. Their color ranges from pale gray to dark brown, and may be dull green or olive. The underside is usually whitish and plain, but may have a few dark spots on the throat and chest. Can be found throughout all of Missouri except the southeastern tip. Need shallow bodies of water to breed, but can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including dry areas, farmland, and even cities that aren’t too polluted. Call is a regularly repeated crreek or prreep with rolled r’s, with speed and pitch increasing toward the end.


A bullfrog. Notice the green head with the netlike gray brown over the back.


The bullfrog is between 9 to 15.2 cm. They are plain green on the top, but may have a netlike pattern of gray or brown over the green. The bottom is whitish or mottled with gray or yellow. They have no dorsolateral ridges on the trunk. They can be found throughout Missouri. Live in somewhat large bodies of water, like lakes, ponds, bogs, or slow moving streams. Call sounds similar to the guttural grunting of a pig.


A southern leopard frog. Notice the slightly pointed mouth and smaller number of spots at the side.

Southern Leopard Frog:

They range from 5.1 to 9 cm. They have a longer pointed head than their northern counterparts. They have only a few dark spots on the side of their body. They are generally green, brown, or a combination of the two. They can be found throughout Missouri except for in the northwestern tip. Live in shallow, freshwater habitats. Call is a short guttural sound like a chuckle.


An Eastern Spadefoot toad. Notice the lines extending from each eye towards the bottom of the toad.

Eastern Spadefoot:

Can be between 4.4 and 5.7 cm. They lack a raised boss (bump) between their eyes. There is a yellow line that runs from each eye down the back of the Eastern Spadefoot. They often also have a light line on each side of their body. They are most often brown, but may be dark gray or almost black. Like sandy areas or areas with loose soil. Call is a short, explosive grunt that is low in pitch and repeats in short intervals.


A Plains Spadefoot toad. Notice the slight bump between its eyes and the faint light lines along its back.

Plains Spadefoot:

Range from 3.8-5.1 cm. Have a raised boss (bump) between their eyes. Often they are grayish or brownish, and may have a slight green tinge. May have four faint light lines along their backs. Prefers open grasslands over woods and rivers. Their call is a short, rasping bleat that quickly repeats between .5 to 1 second or a low pitched rasping snore.


A Great Plains Toad. Notice the dark blotches surrounded by light pigment, and the warts within the blotches.

Great Plains Toad:

May be between 4.8 and 9 cm. Their coloration can be gray, brown, greenish or yellowish. They have large blotches that may be green, olive, or gray, which are bordered by light pigments. The blotches contain many warts. Lives near irrigation ditches, river bottoms, or flood plains. Their call is a shrill, piercing sound similar to a riveting machine that lasts around 20 seconds.


A Green Treefrog. Notice the white line along its side, and the green overall body color.

Green Treefrog:

They range from 3.2 to 5.7 cm. Color ranges from dull green to bright green or even almost yellow. They have a light stripe along their side that may extend nearly to the posterior. They live in very damp environments, like swamps, lakes, strreams, and even floating vegetation. Call sounds like a bell going “queenk-queenk-queenk” repeated quickly.


An Illinois Chorus Frog. Notice the small black stripe that extends slightly from the eye, and the pale body coloration.

Illinois Chorus Frog:

Between 2.5 and 4.1 cm. Coloration may be gray, hazel, brown, or olive. They are paler than other Chorus Frogs, and have a poorly developed dark lateral stripe. Can dig holes with front limbs instead of hind limbs, unlike toads and spadefoots. Can be found in many environments, like shady wooods, ravines, sand prairies, and even farmland. Call is clear and bell like with a single quickly repeated note.

Eastern Narrowmouth Toad:

Grow to 2.2-3.2 cm. Coloration may be gray, brown, or reddish. Their bellies are heavily mottled (spotted). They have a broad dark middorsal area flanked by light stripes, but it is often covered by patches and spots of other pigments. Like to live on the margin of bodies of water and under some sort of shelter like fallen logs or rocks. Call sounds like a bleating lamb that may be prefaced with a short peep. Lasts from .5 to 4 seconds.


A Green frog. Notice the yellow throat showing it is a male, the dorsolateral ridge that ends on the body, and the dark dorsal spots.

Green Frog:

Not to be confused with Green Treefrog. May be 5.7 to 9 cm. Most often green, but may also be brown. Males have a bright yellow throat. Dorsolateral ridges end on the body. Often have dark brown or gray dorsal spots. Lives around shallow fresh water like springs, creeks, and ponds. Call sounds like a banjo string and is explosive, with one note repeated 3-4 times, decreasing in loudness.


A Pickerel frog. Notice the square-ish spots and the light line along its upper jaw.

Pickerel Frog:

Pickerel frogs are 4.4 to 7.5 cm. They have two parallel rows of square-ish spots going down their backs. The spots are not perfect squares, but more like squares than circles. Have a light line along their upper jaw. They also have dorsolateral ridges going all the way to the groin. Likes cool clear water when found in the northern part of their range, or murky warm waters in the southern part of their range. Call is a low pitched snore lasting 1 or 2 seconds.


A Northern Crawfish frog. Notice the many dark dorsal spots bordered by light pigmentation.

Northern Crawfish Frog:

The northern variation is larger than the other variations, and may be between 5.7 to 11.4 cm. More prominent dorsolateral ridges than the other variations. They have rounded dark dorsal spots bordered with light pigmentation. Coloration varies widely depending on temperature and activity level. Called crawfish frogs due to often living in abandoned crawfish holes. May also be found in other burrows like ones left by small mammals, roadside bank holes, or storm or drainage sewers. Their call is a loud, chuckling deep snore.


Calls for some of the frogs and toads may be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation website.

Information from:

Conant, R, Collins, J.T. Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America, Peterson Field Guides. Published 1998.

Diffen, Frog vs. Toad.


American toad picture from: Missouri Department of Conservation. Toads and Frogs.

Fowler’s toad picture from: Missouri Department of Conservation. Fowler’s Toad.

Woodhouse’s toad picture from: National Park Service. Amphibians-Woodhouse toad.

Blanchard’s cricket frog picture from:

Northern Spring Peeper picture from:

Western Chorus Frog picture from:

Bullfrog picture from: Missouri Department of Conservation. American Bullfrog.

Southern leopard frog picture from: Missouri Department of Conservation. Southern Leopard Frog.

Eastern Spadefoot toad picture from:

Plains Spadefoot toad picture from

Great Plains toad picture from

Green Treefrog picture from

Illinois Chorus Frog picture from

Eastern Narrowmouth Toad picture from Missouri’s Department of Conservation.

Green Frog picture from Missouri’s Department of Conservation.

Pickerel frog picture from

Northern Crawfish frog picture from