frog3.jpg (28476 bytes) FROGS AND TOADS


EASTERN SPADEFOOT (Scaphiopus holbrooki) A THREATENED species in Massachusetts. A stout olive to brown to nearly black toad, often with 2 irregular light lines down back. Under-side white to grayish. Spadefoots derive their names from the "spade," a horny, dark, sharp- edged tubercle on the inner surface of the hind foot, used to dig their daytime burrow. A nocturnal toad which lives in shallow burrows, usually of own making, safe from weather on the surface. It is often found on damp summer nights at the mouth of its burrow. Eastern Spadefoots have been observed, unscathed, amid the smoldering ashes of a brush fire.

BREEDING: March to September, after rains fill temporary vernal pools. Eggs laid in gelatinous bands attached to aquatic vegetation. They hatch within 2 days and transform in 2-8 weeks.

HABITAT: Forested, brushy or cultivated areas of sandy, gravelly or loose loam.

RANGE: From s. New England to Florida Keys; west to Louisiana; north to Illinois and Ohio.


             TOAD FACTS                           frog1.jpg (44956 bytes)

Touch a toad and you'll get warts, right? Wrong! Most toads look as if they have warts, but they don't give them. Touch a toad and you'll find a friend, right? Maybe! Toads can become very tame.

Touch a toad if you can. But touch it gently. If a toad becomes frightened, glands in its skin may ooze a milky juice which is poisonous to most animals if they swallow it. This poison saves toads from enemies, for toads cannot hop away as fast as their frog cousins can.

Some enemies don't seem to be bothered by a toad's poison, so they have other tricks to try. For example, a toad can puff up until it's too big to swallow. Hiding is another toad trick. It blends in with its surroundings and can even change color. Many toads burrow in soft dirt when danger threatens, digging backward with their hind legs. Toads may also protect themselves by simply playing dead.

Toads are amphibians. The word amphibian means "double life," and that's exactly the kind of life toads have. They live the first part of their life in water and the rest on land.

All during this "first life" in the water, tadpoles slowly change into land animals.  The change is called metamorphosis. Some toads change in ten to twelve days. Others take a full year. The first signs of change are two bumps that appear near the tadpole's tail. The stumps slowly grow into hind legs. Soon the front legs appear in the same way. The tadpole swims with its back legs now, as its tail begins to shrink. Finally a little four-legged animal crawls from the water, dragging its tiny tail behind. It has lost its gills and has grown lungs for breathing air. It has lost its teeth and its taste for plants. Its nibbling mouth has changed to a wide, snapping one. The young toad has also grown a long, sticky tongue for catching insects and other small animals. The toad's tongue is fastened at the front of its mouth, instead of the back like the tongues of most animals. When the toad strikes, its mouth opens and the tongue flicks out faster than our eyes can follow it. The tongue whips back and flicks the catch into the toad's mouth. As the toad grows, its tail gets smaller and smaller until it disappears. At night, when the air is moist and the ground is damp, young toads leave their ponds and scatter over the countryside. Sometimes they leave in daylight during a warm day. So many can appear suddenly in one place that people used to think it had "rained" toads. Most toads make their homes in woods or fields or gardens. They live anywhere they can find plenty of food and the cool, damp hiding places that suit them best. Young toads grow quickly during warm weather but their skin doesn't. So every few weeks a young toad must shed its skin. It pulls off the old skin much as you pull off a sweater. Then it eats it. The new skin underneath is shiny and clean. Once on land, most toads stay there the rest of their lives. They hop back to the water only to start a new family. Sitting at the edge of a pond or stream, the males puff out their vocal sacs and sing for mates. There are more than 200 different kinds of true toads in the world, and each kind sings its own songs. Some grunt, some chirp like crickets, and some cheep like baby chickens. Some female toads don't sing. They hear the males' calls and come to the pond to mate. As they lay long strings of jelly-covered eggs, the males fertilize them. Even small toads may lay thousands of eggs at a time. Of all the eggs that are laid, only a few survive to become adult toads but those few can be a great help to people. Many gardeners and farmers know that each toad kills plenty of insects - up to 10,000 in one summer! Although they eat some "good" insects as well as the "bad" ones, toads are always welcome in a garden. To encourage toads to remain in your garden you can make them a house out of a flower pot (perferably a clay pot)turned upside down with a piece broken out for a door.
                      Toad Trilling

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How to Make

HOPPY HOME by Frances Bell

A toad needs its skin moistened now and then. During the hottest part of the day it smells out the nearest moisture and burrows into the cool, damp earth to refresh its body. People who know that toads have this habit sometimes make a house for them. It's really very easy to do and will encourage a toad to stay in your garden and eat the insects off the plants.

You will need a large plastic foam flowerpot at least 9 in. across. (You can probably get one at a garden center.) With a pencil draw a doorway like a half circle, working from the rim upward, this should measure about 3 in. wide by 1 - 1/2 in. high. Cut out the door. The plastic foam is very easy to cut, but if you haven't used a knife much, ask someone to help you.

Find a shady spot in the garden. Dig a hole a little smaller across than the pot, and about 6 in. deep. Fill the hole with well-rotted leaves soaked with water and set the pot upside down over the hole. Plastic foam is very light, so put a brick or small rock on top to keep it in place. In dry weather water around the house and pour a little through to hole in the top. You could print the words TOAD ABODE on the house with a waterproof marker.


Courtesy of The Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Inc



Scientific name: Hyla crucifer ssp. crucifer

Description: Adult peepers range from 3/4 " to 1 1/2" (1.9 - 3.7 cm) in length. As with most frogs, females are larger than males. Peepers are good climbers. They have special adhesive discs on their toe tips, four toes on their front legs and five on the back. These small amphibians can jump up to 28 inches, or over 20 times their body length. eggs
frogs Color and Markings: Peepers can be brown, gray or olive in color. They have a dark cross, often in the shape of an X, on their backs. Individuals do not change colors like some other tree frogs. However, peepers can change shades to match light or dark backgrounds.
Life Cycle: Peepers begin breeding when open water appears (February - May) in the spring. When a female is ready to lay eggs, she goes to where males are singing and selects a mate. The male sits on the female's back and fertilizes the eggs as she deposits them. Between 700 - 1000 tiny eggs about 1/20th of an inch long are laid on vegetation submerged in water. Tadpoles less than 1/5th of an inch emerge one or two weeks after eggs are laid. They feed and grow until their tails are reabsorbed and they turn into (metamorphose) little frogs. After metamorphosing, the tiny tree frogs leave the water for a new home in woodland habitats. There they grow to maturity. The following spring the life cycle begins again. Peepers travel back to the wetlands to breed. During the winter, peepers hibernate on land under logs and bark, but not below the frost line of the soil. Peepers adapt to cold temperatures by having a high concentration of sugar in their blood. This acts as a natural antifreeze so peepers can survive temperatures well below those that would turn the blood of most animals to ice.          Untitled-6 copy.jpg (4693 bytes)

Vocalization: Only males make the sounds that give this frog its name. Females are voiceless. The short, loud, high-pitched calls can be heard for up to 1/2 mile. Males use their voice to attract females during the breeding season. It is common for males to call in duets, trios or quartets. They have two other calls: a trill, used to warn other males to keep their distance, and a "release" call identifying them as males. In the fall single peepers may call from the woods, far from the water. This is called the fall echo. Scientists can only speculate that peeper calling is spurred by light and temperature conditions, when fall climate conditions are the same as they are in the spring.

Feeding Habits: Peeper tadpoles are herbivorous. They feed by inhaling water and filtering particles out of it. They eat blue-green algae, a bacteria toxic to fish and shellfish. In the process of feeding, they clean up the water in which they live. One ounce of peeper tadpoles (about 125) can clean twelve gallons of water every day. Adult peepers eat what they can find in the soil and leaf litter in the woodlands. They eat any animals small enough to fit into their own little mouths: insects, mites, spiders and snails.

small frog

Courtesy of The Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Inc