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Frog Friday: Southern Toad

An image of a southern toad as seen from the side

Southern toad © Jason Gibson

The Southern Toad (Anaxyrus terrestris) is the most common toad in the southern United States. In Virginia, this species is only found in the southeastern Coastal Plain. To differentiate the Southern Toad from other toad species in the Commonwealth, look for its two prominent cranial crests, located on top of its head between the eyes. These crests are raised and form club-like knobs on their back end giving a sculptural appearance to the toad’s head.

Southern Toads are medium sized (1.6–4.4 inches in length) and usually brown, but also range in color from charcoal grey to red to black. They may or may not have dark spots. If an individual does have dark spots, each spot will have one or more “warts.” (Don’t worry; you can’t get warts from a toad! That is just folklore.) Their bellies are usually lightly colored and mottled with black spots or flecks. Some Southern Toads have a light stripe down the center of their back. Like other toads, they have parotoid glands on top of their head that secrete a toxic substance making them distasteful or even toxic to predators.

An image of a redder Southern toad

Southern toad red variation © Jeff Beane

Southern toads are abundant in areas with sandy soils and are commonly found in yards and gardens. They are primarily nocturnal and may be found foraging at night around porch and street lights on a variety of invertebrates, including insects and spiders. During the day these toads take cover by burrowing underground.

This species breeds in shallow fresh water environments from March–September, during which males attract females with a long, abrasive, high-pitched trill lasting 5–10 seconds. Breeding females lay up to 4,000 eggs in long gelatinous strands. Fortunately for toads, fish and other aquatic predators often find their eggs and tadpoles foul tasting. Southern Toads are also fortunate in that they are relatively long-lived; they may live as long as 10 years.

Call of the Southern Toad:

  • July 3, 2015