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Eastern Spadefoot

Fact File

Scientific Name: Scaphiopus holbrookii

Classification: Amphibian

Conservation Status:

Size: Up to 3 inches

Life Span: These frogs live 12 years in captivity and on average 9 years in the wild

Identifying Characteristics

Spadefoots receive their name from a black spade-like appendage on each hind foot (middle right), which is used for burrowing into sand or loose soil. The large protruding eyes have vertically elliptical pupils. Usually brown, sometimes yellowish or quite dark, often mottled, with two light, yellowish, dorsal stripes extending from the eye down the back. They also have small paratoid glands and few warts.


Primarily found in the sandy soils of the Coastal Plain with scattered records in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Did You Know?

Unlike the synchronous-leg swimming pattern typical of many species of frog, spadefoots have an asynchronous or alternate-leg kicking pattern.

Role in the Web of Life

Breeding can occur from early March-early August. Referred to as an “explosive breeder”, they usually remain buried underground only emerging from burrows after heavy rain events and may only remain at breeding site for 1 or 2 days, which includes flooded farm fields, grassy areas, and power-line right- of-ways. Their advertisement call is a complaining nasal descending growl, errrrrrrh that is repeated every 5-10 seconds.


Tier IV Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan

Last updated: January 22, 2024

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