Kentucky frogs and toads

***This post is a part of my series where this year I will be highlighting all of the different states native frogs and toads.  Check out this page to see all of the United State’s native frogs broken down by state. ***

Here are the frogs  and Toads that can be found in Kentucky:

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

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The American toad is mainly nocturnal and is most active when the weather is warm and humid. During the winter, the toad will burrow deep into the ground below the frost line.  As the frost line gets deeper, the toads will burrow deeper beneath the ground. They can be found throughout Kentucky in a variety of habitats, however they seem to prefer woodlands.

The toad has a high musical trill which can last upwards of 30 seconds.  American toad is highly terrestrial and can only be found in the water for a short period while breeding and laying eggs.  Below is a video that shows the American Toad calling.

Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)

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The Fowler’s toad is usually brown, grey, olive green and rust red in color with darkened warty spots.  As these toads become adults, a pale stripe will form down its back.  The belly is usually whiteish with one dark spot.  These toads are uncommon throughout the Bluegrass region, but are common throughout Kentucky.

This toad has a long, loud, high pitched W-A-A-A-H-H-H call.  Listen to it in the video below!    It is said that they can be mistaken for a herd of sheep calling in the night.  The Fowler’s toad will make a series of quick, short hops as the American toad will make a few larger hops.  The fowler’s toad will amplexus in late April- mid July.  The female can release 7,000 -10,000 fertilized eggs which will hatch 2-7 days later.

Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

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The grey treefrog may range in color from green to brown to grey (as shown above).  During the day, they may be found sleeping on tree branches or leaves.  Their toes have a sticky pad which allows them to easily climb vertically up windows, siding, trees; etc.  They may be found in northeastern Kentucky in Boyd and Greenup counties and just west of Fort Knox in parts of Meade, Hardin, and Breckinridge counties.

Female grey tree frogs may lay 1,000-2,000 eggs in clusters of 10-40.  Tadpoles can be distinguished by their redish-orange tails.  Male grey treefrogs have a short melodic trill that lasts only a second.  They will generally call on warm and humid evenings between April & July. Below is a video of the Gray treefrog calling.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

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The  spring peeper is one of West Virginia’s smallest frogs measuring from 1″ to 1-1/2″.  It can be distinguished by it’s dark colored “X”across its back.  This frog is very common throughout the state of Kentucky and spend most of their time on the ground in the leaf litter.

It’s chorus of a shrill high pitched call can be heard from up to a 1/2 mile away from mid- February through early summer. Listen to its call in the video below.  Similar to the American toad, these frogs spend most of its time on land and only are in the water to breed and lay eggs.  Like most tree frogs, the spring peeper is nocturnal and loves to hunt ants, spiders and other small insects during the evening.

Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona)

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The mountain chorus frog is a small species which ranges from tan to light brown with a dark brown mottling pattern.  This species is not associated with water and is typically found near woodlands.  The mountain chorus frog is common throughout eastern and southern Kentucky- including the Mammoth Cave area however, they do not occur in the Bluegrass region.  

The mountain chorus frog has a high pitched call which sounds similar to a fire alarm.  Listen to the call below!

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

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The American Bullfrog is the largest frog in North America.  They are typically green or gray-brown with brown spots. They can grow up to 8″ in length and weigh up to 1.5 pounds.  The bullfrog can be found near large permanent bodies of water with vegetation near the shorelines.  They are common throughout Kentucky and can be found in every county.

It has a very deep call which resembles the mooing of a cow.  Watch the video below to hear!  Both genders of the bullfrog croak.  Their calls may be heard day or night between May and August.

Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)

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It is typically greenish-brown with dark mottling on its head, chest and under its legs.  The throat color ranges to yellow for a male to white for the females.  The Green Frog is abundant throughout Kentucky in a variety of habitats but they are usually found near water.

These frogs can produce as many as 6 different calls – however the most distinctive sound is a throaty boink that sounds like a loose banjo string being plucked.  Listen to the video below to hear!

Eastern narrow mouth toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)**

**Although it bears the name of “toad” it is actually considered to be a frog.

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This frog is typically 1″ in length, with females being slightly larger.  One defining characteristic of this frog is the fold of skin on the back of the frogs head.  The eastern narrow mouth toad is grey or brown in color with smooth thick skin.  It can be found in grassy areas on rocky slopes and in rock filled canyons.  They will hide under rocks and can sometimes be found with tarantulas.  In Tennessee, they can be found statewide, except for in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The male eastern narrow mouth toad’s belly will create a substance that will stick the mating pair together.  The female will lay up to 850 eggs on the surface of the water.  They will take 2 days to hatch and will be toadlets within a quick 30-60 days.  It’s call sounds similar to a bleating sheep with a baaaaa.  Several calling frogs together sound like bees or a bunch of toy airplanes.  I was very surprised by the pitch of their call.  Have a listen below:

 Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)

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The Wood frog is known as a brown, tan or rust colored frog with a dark colored around its eyes.  Some call it a “robbers mask”.  These frogs are found in the forests of eastern and southern Kentucky.

Their call sounds like a quacking of a duck.  Watch the video below to hear!  Two interesting facts about the wood frog, is that while the frogs do not show any paternal care to their young, it has been discovered that tadpoles that have been separated from parents can pick their parents out and aggregate around them.  Secondly, the wood frog is very tolerable to cold temperatures.  These frogs can tolerate complete freezing of up to 65% of their body as they pump any water within their body to their extremities and at the same time pump large amount of glucose from the liver into their cells.  This creates a syrupy sugar solution which acts as antifreeze within their body.  Their blood will freeze, the heart will stop beating and all breathing and muscle movements cease until early spring as they begin to thaw and re-animate.

Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens)

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The Northern Leopard frog has 2-3 unevenly spaced rows of irregular oval shaped dots on its back.  The northern leopard frog has only been found in the Bluegrass region and in counties bordering the Ohio River (mostly NE Kentucky).  It needs 3 different habitats to match its lifestyle – permanent water for overwintering, floodplains & marshes for breeding & meadows and fields for foraging.

These frogs are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they will eat anything that fits in their mouth including beetles, ants, smaller frogs – including their own species, birds and even garter snakes.  It’s call is like a low and rumbling snore and grunt sound.  It has also been known to scream loudly when grasped or frightened by a predator.  Listen below to their call.

Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris)

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The Pickerel frog looks very similar to the Northern Leopard frog; however the pickerel frog has 2 parallel rows of squareish spots down its back.  These frogs are found in the majority of Kentucky, however they are absent from the Western Coal Field and the Jackson Purchase.  They are often found near beaver ponds with dense vegetation.

As a defense the skin of the pickerel frog produces a toxic substance which makes them unappealing to most predators.  Listen to the video below to hear their call.  It is similar to the Northern Leopard frog, however it is shorter and faster, causing it to sound more like a finger running over tines on a comb.

Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii)

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The Eastern Spadefoot has smoother and more moist skin than most toads and is speckled with very tiny warts.  This species varies in color from tan or yellowish to dark brown without bold spots like other southern toads.  They usually have 2 vertical light lines running from the back of their eyes down their dorsum creating a hourglass shape.  The lines are usually more visible in males.  The Eastern Spadefoot toad can be uncommon and wide-ranging in Kentucky and is absent from the Bluegrass region.

The Eastern Spadefoot prefers dry habitats with sandy soil, but can be found in almost any habitat.  Their ability to remain buried for long periods of time allows them to live in suburban and agricultural areas.  These spadefoots spend almost all of their time buried under ground, with the exception of breeding time.  During breeding time, the spadefoots emerge from their burrows and the male will let out a short explosive “wank” call which sounds like a call of a crow.  Something odd about these guys is that some people believe that the Eastern spadefoot smells like peanut butter.

Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

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The Cope’s gray treefrog is smaller and smoother skinned than the gray treefrog.  The gray treefrog and Cope’s gray treefrog can be difficult to tell apart during breeding while they are both mottled.  However, most of the time the Cope’s gray treefrog has a solid lime green colored back.  These frogs occur statewide and can be found in every Kentucky county.

Another way the Cope’s gray treefrog can be distinguished from the gray treefrog is by its call.  The Cope’s gray treefrog’s call is short and raspy.  Listen to the video below to hear.

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris blachardi)

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The Blanchard’s Cricket frog measures an average of 1.5″ in length with the females being slightly larger.  These frogs can jump a surprisingly long way (5-6′) for their small size.  They can range a combination of black, yellow orange or red on a base of brown or green.  The Blanchard’s Cricket frog can be found in the north central portion of Kentucky – from the Kentucky river drainage to the Ashland area. They may be found near permanent water sources like slow moving streams, margins of lakes and ponds or around marshy areas.

This frog was named for its breeding call which sounds very much like a chirp or trill of a cricket repeated for about 20 beats or like 2 pebbles clicked together.  Listen to its call below.

Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)

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The northern cricket frog measures an average of 1.5″ in length.  These frogs can jump a surprisingly long way (5-6′) for their small size.  They can range from mostly green, brown or grey and their is usually a backwards pointing triangle of dark between the eyes. The northern cricket frog can be found south and west of the Kentucky River drainage. They may be found near permanent water sources like slow moving streams, margins of lakes and ponds or around marshy areas. The only way to tell the difference between the northern cricket frog and the Blanchard’s cricket frog is by DNA test or by range.

This frog was named for its breeding call which sounds very much like a chirp or trill of a cricket repeated for about 20 beats or like 2 pebbles clicked together.  Listen to its call below.

Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephala)

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The Southern Leopard frog has 2-3 unevenly spaced rows of irregular oval shaped dots on its back.  The southern leopard frog is the most common of Kentucky’s 3 types of leopard frogs and has been found statewide, except for the north western portion of the state.  It needs 3 different habitats to match its lifestyle – permanent water for overwintering, floodplains & marshes for breeding & meadows and fields for foraging.

These frogs are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they will eat anything that fits in their mouth including beetles, ants, smaller frogs – including their own species, birds and even garter snakes.  It’s call is like a low and rumbling snore and grunt sound.  It has also been known to scream loudly when grasped or frightened by a predator.  Listen below to their call.

Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum)

Upland chorus frogs are usually brown, grey brown or reddish brown in color with darker blotching.  They have 3 stripes running along their back with a dark triangular spot between the eyes.  These frogs are secretive and rarely seen or heard except immediately after it rains.  They can be found in a variety of habitats including vegetated areas not far from a permanent water source.  In Kentucky, they are rarely seen. They are difficult to find as they can hide in dense grass at the edge of the water with only the tip of their nose exposed.

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The call of the upland chorus frog is a raspy trill sound which ascends higher in pitch, similar to running a finger across tines on a comb.  Listen to the males call below.

Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

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The green treefrog is slender frog that ranges from bright green to dull green with a white stripe down its side.  These frogs can reach 2.5″ and can be easily frightened.  They are typically found within marshes, swamps, small ponds and streams, but can also be found within brackish water sources.  Until the 1980’s, the green treefrog could only be found in the cypress swamps – since then, they have spread eastward and now they are ending up in the west end of Louisville!

On average, a female will lay 400 eggs.  Breeding takes place May through mid-August.  It has been noted that the green treefrog will choose its prey not based on size, but based on activity level.  With the most active being eaten first.  The male’s call is a single note repeated over and over sounding like a “queenk”.  Listen to their call below.

Crawfish Frog (Lithobates areolatus)

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This frog has a large and stubby body with a distinct humped back while it rests.  It is covered in many irregular shaped spots and its belly is solid white.  It gets its name from its diet which consists of nocturnal beetles, small amphibians and reptiles and crawfish.  The crawfish frog can be found in low lying areas including meadows, prairies, brush fields and crawfish holes.  In Kentucky, they occur only in the Jackson Purchase and Western Coal Field regions.

The crawfish frog breed from March through April.  The males will gather in a fishless pond and call.  The females can lay up to 7000 eggs group in large 5-6″ clumps.  The pond must maintain through mid-June while all of the froglets transform.  The crawfish frog has a loud and deep call which reminds me of a hog.  The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife resources describe the chorus of males as “sounding just like the drunk tank in the county jail on Saturday night”. Listen to them below:

Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratiosa)

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The Barking treefrog can reach 3″ in length.  It is known for its bright green color with dark brown spots.  It occurs only in the western Pennyrile section of the state from southern Logan County to the southern tip of Livingston County. This area is unique as it has no trees – it is a wonder how such large frogs can survive in a treeless area with no permanent standing water is a true mystery.

Their call is a loud ‘Tonk’ sound which from the distance the chorus can sound like barking dogs.  Breeding lasts March- August and it is a polygamous species; with the female choosing the male based on his call.  The barking treefrog can be found high within the treetops, but also burrowing within sand when temperatures get hot.  Listen to their call below.

Bird-voiced Treefrog (Hyla avivoca)

Bird Voiced Tree frog
Hyla Avicoca
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The color of the bird-voiced treefrog is highly variable and can vary between gray or green with irregular marks on their back. They have a light spot under the eye and yellow-green to pale green flash colors on their thighs. The bird-voiced treefrog may be found in forested wetland habitats in the Jackson Purchase and Western Coal Field regions. The only way to tell a bird-voiced treefrog from the Cope’s gray tree frog is by hearing the male’s call or by checking the color of the inner thighs.

The Cope’s Gray treefrogs and the bird-voiced treefrogs have been known to interbreed. These hybrids are called the Hickman hybrid as they were first discovered at the Obion Creek Wildlife Management Area in Hickman County.

The bird-voiced tree frog’s call is a ringing birdlike whistle repeated 20+ times. This call can be heard mid-April thru July. The bird-voiced treefrog is nocturnal and arboreal, only coming from the trees to breed. Listen to their call below.

Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi)

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This frog is brown with large rounded dark spots with light borders.  As you can see from the photo above, the ear drum is very distinct.  The Plains leopard frog is known for its distinctively broken and displaced skin ridges along the back and can reach 3-3/4″.  They can be found near streams, ponds, creeks and ditches.  In wet, mild weather, they may be found far away from water.  The entire range of the Plain’s leopard frog is in the Lower Hickman Bottoms of western Fulton County and was just discovered in 2011. This is the rarest of the 23 Kentucky Frogs/ Toads.

Female plains leopard frogs will lay a mass of eggs which can hold up to 6,500 eggs.  Tadpoles will become frogs in midsummer or may even transform the following spring.  The plains leopard frog’s call includes a few low grunting sounds along with a series of short clucks.  Listen to their call below:

Midland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata)

The midland chorus frog (more commonly called the western chorus frog) is among Kentucky’s smallest amphibian. A full grown male will only reach 1-1/2″ with the females as large as 2″. They can range from greenish grey, reddish to olive to brown with 3 stripes down its back.  The midland chorus frog prefers freshwater areas like marshes or swamps to cut down on predication.  This species may be found in wet meadows and shallow pools from the Tennessee river east to Carrollton, Hodgenville, and the Burkesville area.

These frogs are nocturnal and rather secretive so they can be hard to find.  Best time to find them is on a warm summer night when they come out to call.  The call of the midland chorus frog is a “cree-ee-eek” as heard in the video below.

Thanks for reading! Check out all of the United State’s native frogs and toads here.

frogs-found-in10

Photo Credits:

Cover photo used by the creative commons license.  Text was added.  See Original photo by Aaron Vowels here.

  1. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  2. Photo from Wikipedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Perlick Laura.  Original Photo Here.
  3. Photo from ADW  used under the creative commons license.  Photo taken by James Harding.  Original Photo Here.
  4. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Matt Reinbold.  Original Photo Here.
  5. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Andrew Hoffman.  Original Photo Here.
  6. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  7. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  8. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Rusty Clark.  Original Photo Here.
  9. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  10. Photo from Wikipedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  11. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  12. Photo from Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.  Original photo here.
  13. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Fredlyfish4.  Original Photo Here.
  14. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Andrew DuBois.  Original Photo Here.
  15. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren.  Original Photo Here.
  16. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Brian Gratwicke.  Original Photo Here.
  17. Photo from Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by National Park service employee.  Original Photo Here.
  18. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Jarek Tuszynski.  Original Photo Here.
  19. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Andrew Hoffman.  Original Photo Here.
  20. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Todd Plerson.  Original Photo Here.
  21. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Greg Schechter.  Original Photo Here.
  22. Photo from Flickr Wikimedia Commons used under the Creative Commons license.  Photo taken by Andrew Hoffman.  Original Photo Here.

For more information:

  1. Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
  2. https://www.daviessaudubon.net/frogs.html

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