Amphibian Identification

Identify an Amphibian

An amphibian is a cold-blooded vertebrate animal that includes frogs, toads, newts and salamanders. They are distinguished by having an aquatic gill-breathing larval stage followed (typically) by a terrestrial lung-breathing adult stage. Read more...



BOREAL CHORUS FROG Pseudacris maculate Treefrogs, Family Hylidae


+Adult Identifying Features


Play Call:

  1. Dark stripe runs from snout through eye, then down along flank to groin
  2. Background colour range: Grey, Brown, Green
  3. Three dark stripes on back; stripes may be broken, reduced to spots or absent
  4. Small round toe tips
  5. Skin appears grainy in texture
  6. Best seen: Spring to Fall. Adult males commonly call between April 15 – May 25, but may call outside this window as well.
  7. Call: Call sounds like running your fingernail down plastic comb teeth

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Mottled with brown and gold above, and silver with a coppery sheen below
  2. When viewed from above, the eyes are outside the outline of the body
  3. Metamorphosis is complete 8 weeks after egg hatch
  4. Tadpoles are 30mm before they transform into tiny juvenile frogs about 7-12mm in body length.
  5. Timing: Tadpoles best seen in early summer. Froglets best seen in fall

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. 30 – 1500 eggs laid in many small, irregular or elongated masses less than 25mm in diameter.
  2. Egg masses are attached to submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water
  3. Hatch in 5-14 days
  4. Timing: Best seen in spring

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


Found in close proximity to:

  • Wetlands, sloughs, ditches, flooded meadows,
  • Quiet backwaters of rivers and streams,
  • Margins of lakes
  • Outside of breeding season they can be found in woodlands and open meadows

CONFUSING SPECIES


May be confused with the Wood frog or Northern leopard frog but typically the Boreal chorus frog is the smallest frog in Calgary.

Compared to the Wood frog, the Boreal chorus frog does not have dorsolateral folds on its back (Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks, 2010).

LIFE HISTORY


Diet consists of snails and insects (Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks, 2010)

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): Secure

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta. (2013). Sensitive Species Inventory Guidelines. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-management/documents/SensitiveSpeciesInventoryGuidelines-Apr18-2013.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2010). Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculate). Retrieved September 26, 2016, from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/frogs/boreal-chorus-frog.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm


WOOD FROG Lithobates sylvaticus True Frogs – Family Ranidae


+Adult Identifying Features


Play Call:

  1. "Bandit mask" - Dark eye mask extends from snout through eye, ending behind eardrum; contrasts sharply with whitish jaw stripe
  2. Background colour: brown, pink-tan, olive-green, grey to almost black
  3. Ridges of skin (dorsolateral folds) along sides of back
  4. May have light stripe down middle of back
  5. Best seen: early spring to early fall, Adult males commonly call between April 15 – May 25 (Government of Alberta, 2013), Best seen on sunny days or best heard after light rainfall or in cooler weather night or day
  6. Call: Calls can occur during the night or day

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Brown or dark green above and whitish, and sometimes with a pink tinge, below
  2. Tadpoles may grow up to 5 cm in total length prior to metamorphosis
  3. Metamorphosis is complete 6-12 weeks after egg deposition
  4. Timing: Tadpoles best seen in spring. Froglets best seen in late summer to early fall

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. 1000-3000 eggs, which are laid in 1-4 soft, plum-sized globular masses
  2. Egg masses are loosely attached to submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water
  3. Hatch in 3 weeks
  4. Timing: Best seen in spring

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


Found in shady mixed forest habitats and open grassy areas bordered by:

  • Forest and brush,
  • Near ponds, marshes, margins of lakes
  • Quiet backwaters of rivers and streams

CONFUSING SPECIES


May be confused with the Boreal chorus frog or Northern leopard frog but typically the Wood frog is distinguished by its "bandit mask" and the presence of dorsolateral folds.

LIFE HISTORY


  • Diet consists of worms and insects.
  • Very cold tolerant as it produces its own "antifreeze"
  • Only amphibian in North America found above the Arctic Circle

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): Secure

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta. (2013). Sensitive Species Inventory Guidelines. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-management/documents/SensitiveSpeciesInventoryGuidelines-Apr18-2013.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2009). Wood frog (Rana sylvatica). Retrieved October 7, 2016 from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/frogs/wood-frog.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm


TIGER SALAMANDER Ambystoma mavortium Mole Salamanders – Family Ambystomatidae

+Adult Identifying Features


  1. Dark spots and stripes often creating a net-like pattern
  2. Background colour: yellow-brown, grey, olive-green to black
  3. May become relatively uniform in colour and spotted with age
  4. Long tail
  5. Broad and flat head, with small eyes
  6. Best seen: early spring to early fall. Especially active during spring rains, when dozens may appear in an area. Best seen in the spring when they are migrating to breeding waterbodies, especially in humid weather. Active at night

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Dull yellow to olive green to dark brown, with a paler belly
  2. Larvae have three conspicuous feathery external gills on either side of the head
  3. Larvae usually transform into land-dwelling individuals in August, body length of 98 mm (excluding tail)
  4. Some tiger salamander larvae fail to metamorphose into land-breathing adults, and maintain their larval characteristics. This is known as neoteny.
  5. Occasionally, larvae over-winter in their birth pond
  6. Timing: Larvae can be observed in early to late May in warm shallow water of breeding ponds. The best month to survey for larvae is July

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. Few eggs, which are laid singly or in small linear clusters of only a few eggs. Three thin jelly layers surround each embryo
  2. Eggs are attached to submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water
  3. Hatch in 3 weeks
  4. Timing: Best seen between mid-April and May

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


  • Found near lakes and small bodies of water that are suitable for breeding and have loose soil nearby for burrowing
  • Breeding sites are usually fishless standing water that is permanent or semi-permanent
  • They can be found living under logs and debris, or even in burrows of small animals or of their own construction.
  • Over-wintering habitat: Areas with sandy soils and debris that allow them to burrow

CONFUSING SPECIES


There are no similar species.

LIFE HISTORY


  • Diet consists of frogs, insects, small fish, mice, worms, and other salamanders
  • Active at night and are quite secretive

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): Secure

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): Special Concern

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2009). Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). Retrieved October 12, 2016 from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/salamanders/tiger-salamander.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm


CANADIAN TOAD Anaxyrus hemiophrys True Toads, Family Bufonidae


+Adult Identifying Features


Play Call:

  1. Parallel ridges (cranial crests) on top of head, sometimes meet to form a bump
  2. Background colour: brown, olive-green to grey
  3. Large reddish-brown warts
  4. Raised oval-shaped parotoid gland behind each eye
  5. May have light stripe down middle of back
  6. Best seen: Best seen: early spring to early fall. Adult males commonly call between May 15 – June 14 (Government of Alberta, 2013). Best seen in the spring when they are migrating to breeding waterbodies, especially in humid weather

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Colour: black (or nearly so) above, and slightly lighter below.
  2. Metamorphosis is usually complete in about 6-7 weeks
  3. Timing: Tadpoles best seen in late spring to early summer. Toadlets best seen in summer

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. 6,000 eggs, which are laid in long strings with one jelly layer and a single row of closely positioned eggs.
  2. Egg strings are entwined about submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water
  3. Hatch 1-5 days after deposition
  4. Timing: Best seen in spring

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


Found near permanent waterbodies in areas with sandy and loose soils:

  • River valleys
  • Margins of lakes
  • Prefer permanent wetlands for breeding, but also breed in temporary waterbodies

It is one of the most terrestrial of Alberta's amphibians, sometimes found far from water.

Over-wintering habitat:

  • Areas with sandy soils that allow them to burrow below the frost line to hibernate
  • It is believed that Canadian toads congregate in large numbers at such communal sites to over-winter

CONFUSING SPECIES


May be confused with the Western (Boreal) toad but the presence of cranial crests on the top of the Canadian toad's head is a distinguishing feature.

LIFE HISTORY


Diet consists worms, beetles, and ants.

While it is usually active during the day, during hot weather it may become active at night. The Canadian toad may spend a great deal of time underground, especially during unfavourable weather (hot and dry).

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): May Be at Risk

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): Not at Risk

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): N/A

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta. (2013). Sensitive Species Inventory Guidelines. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-management/documents/SensitiveSpeciesInventoryGuidelines-Apr18-2013.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2010). Canadian toad (Bufo hemiophrys). Retrieved October 11, 2016, from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/toads/canadian-toad.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm


WESTERN TOAD Anaxyrus boreas True Toads, Family Bufonidae


+Adult Identifying Features


Play Call:

  1. Lacks ridges (cranial crests) on top of head
  2. Background colour range: olive-green, grey, red, brown to almost black
  3. Large reddish-brown warts often set in dark blotches
  4. Raised oval-shaped parotoid gland behind each eye
  5. May have light stripe down middle of back
  6. Best seen: early spring to early fall. Adult males commonly call between May 15 – June 14 (Government of Alberta, 2013). Best seen at night or in cooler, humid weather. Best seen in the spring when they are migrating to breeding waterbodies

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Uniformly black or charcoal on top, and somewhat lighter below
  2. Tadpole densities can be very high in some ponds and tadpoles commonly form dense aggregations in shallow water
  3. After hatching, it takes 6-8 weeks for the tadpoles to transform into tiny juvenile toads
  4. Timing: Tadpoles best seen in late spring to early summer. Toadlets best seen in summer.

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. 16,000 eggs, which are laid in long strings with two jelly layers and 1-3 rows of eggs.
  2. Egg strings are entwined about submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water, sometimes creating a mat that covers an extensive area
  3. Hatch in 3-12 days
  4. Timing: Best seen in spring

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


Found near ponds, bogs, swamps, streams, and lakes in the following habitats:

  • Forested areas
  • Clearcuts
  • Wet shrublands
  • Meadows

Over-wintering habitat:

  • May be found far from water in drier habitats, living underground or under debris

CONFUSING SPECIES


May be confused with the Canadian toad but the lack of cranial crests on the top of the Western toad's head is a distinguishing feature.

LIFE HISTORY


Diet consists of insects, slugs, and worms.

Western toad walks rather than hops

Active at night, or at higher elevations and cooler temperatures it may be active during the day

In bad weather it shelters in animal burrows, dense vegetation, tree root tangles or by burying itself in loose soil

When threatened, the Western toad may gulp air to inflate its body and rise up on its legs, in an effort to intimidate would-be predators

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): Sensitive

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): Special Concern

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): Special Concern

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): Schedule 1

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta. (2013). Sensitive Species Inventory Guidelines. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-management/documents/SensitiveSpeciesInventoryGuidelines-Apr18-2013.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2010). Western toad (Bufo boreas). Retrieved October 7, 2016, from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/toads/western-toad.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm


NORTHERN LEOPARD FROG Lithobates pipiens True Frogs, Family Ranidae


+Adult Identifying Features


Play Call:

  1. White or cream-colored dorsolateral ridges that extend from behind the eyes to the lower back
  2. Background colour range: green, brown, tan; rarely golden
  3. Large round or oval dark spots with light borders
  4. Best seen: early spring to early fall. Adult males commonly call between April 15 – May 12 (Government of Alberta, 2013). Best seen on sunny days or best heard after light rainfall or in cooler weather. Summer: find adults and forglets on sunny banks resting and foraging for food
  5. Call: three or more snore-like sounds followed by interspersed grunting and chuckling sounds. The Call may end abruptly.

+Tadpole Identifying Features


  1. Dark brown, gray, or olive above (often with gold speckles) and whitish below.
  2. Largest tadpole in Alberta, average 75mm in length, can grow up to 100mm in length.
  3. Metamorphosis is complete 8-12 weeks after egg hatch.
  4. Timing: Tadpoles best seen in spring. Froglets best seen in late summer to early fall

+Egg Mass Identifying Features


  1. 7000 eggs laid in a firm, orange-sized globular mass.
  2. Egg masses are attached to submerged vegetation, sticks, or debris in shallow water
  3. Hatch in 1-3 weeks
  4. Timing: Best seen in spring

+Details

GEOGRAPHIC REGION



HABITAT


Found in close proximity to permanent wetlands in the following habitats:

  • Wet meadows, pastures
  • Scrubland, lightly wooded areas
  • May be a great distance from water during humid weather

Hibernates in:

  • Permanent springs, creeks, ponds and lakes that do not freeze completely

Breeding habitat:

  • fringes of the same waterbody it hibernates in

CONFUSING SPECIES


May be confused with the Wood frog or Boreal chorus frog, but typically the Northern leopard frog is the largest frog in Calgary and it's round or oval dark spots with light outlines are very distinctive.

LIFE HISTORY


Diet consists of insects, mice, small fish, worms, other frogs and tadpoles. Diet of tadpoles consists of plants and algae.

Most adult feeding activity happens on land at night but may occur during the day as well.

Females are larger than males

STATUS LISTING


Alberta Status 2010 (Government of Alberta, 2012): At Risk

COSEWIC status (Government of Canada, 2016): Special Concern

Species at Risk Act (SARA) Status (Government of Canada, 2016): Special Concern

SARA Status Schedule (Government of Canada, 2016): Schedule 1

INFORMATION SOURCES


Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2013). Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program - Participants Guide. Edmonton, AB.

Alberta Conservation Association, & Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. (2016). Amphibian Identifier. Edmonton, AB.

Government of Alberta. (2012). Alberta Wild Species General Status Listing - 2010. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/albertas-species-at-risk-strategy/general-status-of-alberta-wild-species-2010/documents/SAR-2010WildSpeciesGeneralStatusList-Jan2012.pdf

Government of Alberta. (2013). Sensitive Species Inventory Guidelines. Retrieved from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wildlife-management/documents/SensitiveSpeciesInventoryGuidelines-Apr18-2013.pdf

Government of Alberta - Alberta Environment and Parks. (2013). Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens). Retrieved October 4, 2016, from http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/amphibians/frogs/northern-leopard-frog.aspx

Government of Canada. (2016). Species at Risk Public Registry - A to Z Species Index. Retrieved from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm

Amphibian ID Tips

Colour is not always reliable (i.e. an amphibian species can have multiple colour phases)

Patterns (spots or stripes) are good indicators for frogs and salamanders

Existence of a ridge between the eyes is a good identifying feature for toads