American Toad

American Toads are by far my favourite frog species because they are the very first frogs I encountered in my yard as a child. I would rush home from school during the Spring to watch them hop around and feast on bugs.

American Toads are divided in 3 subspecies including Eastern American, Dwarf American and the rare Hudson Bay Toads. These toads are brown, gray, russet, tan, and olive depending on their environment. American Toads are generally 2 to 3.5 inches long and can live up to 30 years in captivity.

Let me show you what they look like, sound like, and where you can find them. I will also give you a few tips if you want to attract them, or keep them out of your yard.

An American Toad I found in the wild

Listen to the American Toad call below – they make a loud, long trill during mating season.

Common NameAmerican Toad
Other NamesEastern American Toad, Dwarf American Toad, Hudson Bay Toad
Scientific NameAnaxyrus Americanus (A. a. Americanus; A. a. Charlesmithi; A. a. copei)
LocationsNorth America
CharacteristicsEastern American Toad: Brown, gray, red, tan, and olive in color, with yellow or tan accents, sporadic dark spots over the body, and a light stripe along the torso. They have dense and wart covered skin. 
Dwarf American Toad: Dark or light reddish color and reduced or absent spots. They have a dark lateral stripe and a deep valley between prominent crests. 
Hudson Bay Toad: Rare, Red on their sides and many warts.
Origin Nearctic region
Conservation StatusLeast concern
Family Bufonidae
Genus Anaxyrus
Species A. Americanus
Poisonous Yes
Maximum Length 2 – 3.5 inches
Average Lifespan1 – 10 years in the wild, Up to 30 years in captivity

American Toads have dry skin, and are covered in glands (warts) on their legs and back. This species has a swollen parotoid gland behind each eye and separated postorbital ridges, frequently connected by a spur.

Their skin color may vary based on stress levels, temperature, and the environment’s appearance or living conditions.

For example, both of the beautiful American Toads below are from the same location, but are totally different colors based on their main environments.

Toad-min
American Toad I found in the wild
American Toad Back-min
American Toad from the same area as the one to the left

American Toads can be found in three specific subspecies: the Eastern American and Dwarf American Toad. The Eastern American Toad is medium-sized frogs, with fewer warts.

A very cute Eastern American Toad I found in the wild

The Dwarf American Toad is smaller with a dark lateral stripe on their backs. Hudson Bay Toads can be found in Northern Ontario, Canada are fairly rare.

Being Kind to Backyard American Toads

American Toads are by far my favourite frog species because they are the very first frogs I encountered in my yard as a child. I would rush home from school during the Spring to watch them hop around and feast on bugs.

Wild pet toad
My “pet” toad named “Toady”

I called one of them my free-range “pet” and named it “Toady”, but it wasn’t a real “pet” like a cat or dog. It never came indoors. I never had to feed it or pick it up.

The toads just roamed our yard, kept our window wells super clean, and enjoyed their best toady lives, free to go wherever they wanted.

Since American Toads are very adaptable, it is easy to attract them to your yard and observe them in their natural habitats.

Ways to “care” for them include keeping predators like skunks, racoons, and pets away from where they roam in your yard.

You can also attract bugs (their main source of food) by composting, leaving solar lights on at night, creating a toad hibernaculum, and abundant shelter so the toads to feel right at home.

Baby American Toad Playing Dead-min
Cute baby American Toad – Notice it’s yellow spaded foot

American Toads can be awesome to keep pesky, disease-carrying mosquitoes away, and make an excellent natural bug repellant in organic gardens.

If, on the contrary, you do not want them in your yard, check out these resources on our blog:

Tips on How To Spot American Toads

American Toads live in terrestrial habitats and can often be found in open fields, pastures, forests, and residential areas. Their habitat generally contain leaf litter, sandy or loamy soil, moist hiding spots, and plenty of food sources.

American Toads return to water to breed during mating season in late Spring. Adequate water bodies include ponds, roadside ditches, or lake edges, provided that fish do not inhabit these areas.

Thankfully, this amazing toad species is fairly easy to catch a glimpse of, as they live in a broad range of places throughout Eastern North America and are often found in people’s backyards due to the abundance of bugs.

To find American Toads:

  • Look for areas with semi-permanent freshwater ponds or pools, as this species likes to have shallow water available for breeding during mating season (typically during May and June)
  • Look in areas that have dense vegetation patches, as they use it for ambush hunting and cover
  • Keep an eye on the weather, as American Toads come out when it rains to take advantage of worms and insects which leave their burrows
  • You will have a better chance of looking for them at night since they are nocturnal
  • Check your window wells and save toads, especially if it is dry, rocky or in full sun

I honestly think American Toads are beautiful, and I know that it’s controversial since most people dislike toads for their warts. But I have some interesting facts to share with you that may debunk a few myths you believe about American Toads.

Interesting American Toad Facts

  • American Toads (or any toads for that matter) cannot give you warts
  • Toads burrow most of the day and come out to eat at night
  • The oldest documented American Toad lived for 36 years in captivity
  • American Toads may be confused with Canadian Toads but can be differentiated by the cranial crests
  • American Toads use posture, touch, and chemical cues for communication
  • Adult American Toads can eat up to 1,000 insects per day
  • To make themselves less appealing to predators, toads may urinate or inflate their bodies with air

So to avoid a toad peeing on you, just avoid picking it up or wear gloves and handle it properly if you really need to move it.

Questions Related to American Toads 

What do American Toads Sound Like? The call of a male American Toad is a long high trill, which can be compared to the sound of a ringing telephone. The sound is quite loud, and their vocal sacs puff out like balloons while calling. Females are not silent, but they are generally more quiet. 

What do American Toads Eat? American Toads are carnivores and feed on small prey. Their primary food sources include moths, slugs, ants, earthworms, crickets, mealworms, spiders, centipedes, and other small invertebrates. Tadpoles feed on aquatic vegetation. 

How Long Do American Toads Make Noise? Male American Toads will voice their mating calls throughout the breeding season and will go quiet when they hibernate in Winter. Each call will last for around 4 – 20 or 6 – 30 seconds, depending on the subspecies. 

Are American Toads Endangered? American Toads are not endangered, are very adaptable and thrive in a wide range of conditions making it much easier for them to survive. They have been listed as ‘least concern’ with regard to the species’ endangerment. 

Can You Keep an American Toad as a Pet? American Toads are popular as pets but the best way to care for them is as wild, outdoor “pets” and to simply observe them in your yard living their best lives. Keeping a toad inside can be expensive, demanding and less fun for the owner and toad.

How Big Do American Toads Get? American Toads grow to around 2 inches, but they can get larger depending on environment, genetics, health, and diet. The largest American Toad discovered measured 4.4 inches in length.

How Many Babies Do American Toads Have? Female American Toads lay 2000 to 8000 eggs in two rows. The eggs transform into tadpoles around 3 – 12 days in ideal temperatures. Surviving tadpoles generally develop for 40 – 70 days and reach full sexual maturity after 2 – 3 years. 

More About American Toads

American Toads may not be the most bright and vibrant species. But, they are incredibly diverse and adaptive to their environments. Fortunately, you may be able to catch a glimpse of this interesting toad species’ everyday activities by understanding their behaviors and searching within their preferred habitats or regions.

Learn more about American Toads on our site:

Sources

Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Dickerson, M. 1906. The Frog. NY: Doubleday, Page and Company.

Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: The University of Michigan Press.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2015). “Anaxyrus americanus”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T54570A56843565. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T54570A56843565.en.