Despite the dry, hot temperatures and salty coastal waters, California is home to over 50 different amphibious creatures including frogs, toads, and salamanders. Among these amphibians, frogs are the most widespread.
As a general rule, California is home to a wide variety of frogs including California Tree Frogs, American Bullfrogs, Pacific Tree Frogs, California Red-Legged Frogs, Cascades Frogs, Oregon Spotted Frogs, and Sierran Tree Frogs. Some of these species can only be found in the State of California.
Here is a list of 10 frog species you can find in California including their locations:
|Frog Species||California Location||Habitat|
|California Tree Frog||East||Arboreal|
|California Red-Legged Frog||East||Arboreal|
|Northern Red-Legged Frog||East||Aquatic|
|Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog||West||Arboreal|
|African Clawed Frog||West||Aquatic|
|Oregon Spotted Frog||North East||Arboreal|
|Pacific Tree Frog||South||Arboreal|
|Sierran Tree Frog||Central||Arboreal|
Many California frogs live in forests, deserts, ponds, marshes, streams, pools, and muddy areas along with the coast ranges. However, although some frogs have adapted to hash conditions, most frog species still avoid saltwater or brackish water because it dries out their skin. So don’t expect to find frogs along the beach 😉
In this article, I am going to cover the different types of frogs you can find in California, what they look like and where they are located in the State.
1. California Tree Frog
The California Tree Frog is a small tree frog with rough grey or light brown skin on its dorsum and a whitish center. However, the underside of its groin, legs, and lower abdomen are yellow. It usually grows to be 2.9-5cm long. They feed on insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. With their long tongues, they simply catch the prey and bring it into the mouth for feeding.
It can be found in Southern California from the coastal ranges through Northern Baja California, Mexico. These frogs are mostly found along streams with wobbles and huge boulders. They also favor canyons, quiet ponds, desert streams, and coastal streams.
2. American Bullfrog
The American Bullfrog is a water-dwelling amphibian native to Eastern North America. The Bullfrog got its name from its deep and resonant call, which closely resembles the meowing of a bull. Its color usually varies from brown to different shades of green, often with spots or blotches of darker color around the back and the neck depending on their immediate environment (CTNF).
The American Bullfrog is the largest of all frogs in North American. This large amphibian can grow to be 8 inches or more and weigh up to 8.5 pounds. They can be found in freshwater, ponds, lakes, marshes, and other shallow water bodies; they are among the most wide-ranging of all Northwestern amphibians.
The Bullfrog is a large-mouthed predator and feeds on larger prey than most smaller frogs including insects, mice, birds, fish, and even snakes. American Bullfrogs generally try to eat anything that they can fit into their mouths.
3. Pacific Tree Frog
Pacific Tree Frogs are small amphibious creatures. They have a conspicuous “mask” extending from the nostrils as far as the shoulder, but they are not to be confused with Wood Frogs (which are not located in California). The color of their skin ranges from brown, tan, reddish, shades of green, black or brown. Some of the frogs can even change their colors.
The Pacific Tree Frog is very common in California. You can find them in almost any place where the environment is suitable for dwelling and reproduction, which is usually small lakes and ponds surrounded by trees. They feed largely on arthropods.
4. California Red-Legged Frog
The California Red-legged Frog is the largest frog native to the Western United States. Its size may range from 1.72 to 5.25 inches, and there are several various colors of the Red-Legged Frog ranging from brown, grey, olive, or even orange, often speckled with dark spots.
The California Red-Legged Frog prefers aquatic habitats such as ponds, creeks, backwater ponds, marshes, springs, and lagoons. The frogs often survive on a diet of invertebrates. However, they have been known to eat mice and other smaller frogs as well.
5. Northern Red-Legged Frog
Northern Red-Legged Frogs are typically found in shallow ponds and wet areas with emergent vegetation. The females are twice as large as the males. The females can grow as long as 14 cm long, while the males are usually 7cm long. They usually have reddish-brown coloring with black splotches on their backs.
The Northern Red-Legged Frog feeds on any prey that they can subdue. Not only do they feed on invertebrates, but larger frogs also feed on small mammals and other amphibians.
6. Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog
Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog is a small frog that is usually 3.72 to 8.2 cm long. The frog has a uniquely striking lemon-yellow color under its legs, and it often blends with rocks to hide from predators. The rest of the frog’s skin is often grey, brown, or reddish.
The frog often feeds on terrestrial or aquatic invertebrates such as mosquitoes, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, worms, hornets, moths, snails, and flies. They live mostly in streams and lower water bodies.
7. Cascades Frog
The Cascades Frog is so-called because it prefers small waterfalls. Aside from waterfalls, however, the cascades frog also lives in ponds, meadows, lakes, and other water bodies at moderate to high elevations.
As is the case with several other frogs, the females can grow larger than the males. The former can grow up to 3 inches long, while the latter is usually 2.25 inches long. Although not much is known about their diet, they also consume tadpoles, smaller frogs, and other invertebrates (CTNF).
8. African Clawed Frog
African Clawed Frogs are not native to California and were more than likely introduced due to the pet trade. Many people love to keep African Clawed Frogs as pets because they are fully aquatic like fish and can be an interesting exotic pet to care for.
However, having frogs as pets is not for everyone. Some owners may have unintentionally released these frogs into nature causing them to reproduce, proliferate, and become invasive in California. African Clawed Frogs are now illegal to own, transport or sell without a permit.
The name of this frog is derived from the three short claws on either hind foot with which the frog tears apart its prey. They are known to be highly aggressive and ferocious amphibians. The African Clawed Frog has smooth, greenish multicolored skin with spots of brown and black on their backs which is useful for hiding from predators. They also have the ability to change their gender (CTNF).
Males are about 5-6 cm long while females are much larger, about 10-12cm long. The African Clawed Frog is fully aquatic and will only live in the pond or stream to migrate to another water body. Adult frogs feed on living dying or dead arthropods . They also feed on fish, worms, tadpoles, and freshwater snails.
9. Oregon Spotted Frog
Oregon Spotted Frogs are a medium-sized aquatic frog, which mostly prefers to live in the water. You can find it in permanent water bodies in alpine and subalpine areas. The frog is usually about 6-9 cm long, and its skin ranges from tan to brown or olive, and they have irregular-shaped black spots on their back.
They’re usually associated with medium to large wetlands and shallow streams and ponds with abundant emergent vegetation. Although they usually feed on invertebrates such as water striders, beetles, flies, and spiders.
10. Sierran Tree Frog
The Sierran Tree Frog, often called the Sierran Chorus Frog, is an amphibian with a large head, large eyes, and little webbing on the toes. It lives from sea level up to 10 000 feet, only reproducing in water bodies. Its smooth skin is either green, brown, tan, cream, or grey.
The Sierran Tree Frog is usually 1.9cm to 5.1cm long. Outside of the breeding season, the Tree Frog stays outside of water and is mostly found around forests, woodland, grasslands, green pastures, desert streams, oases, underground caves, and urban areas.
More About Frogs in California
I love to go out looking for frogs and if you are in California, by all means, make frog searching a part of your trip! California is a great place to capture photos of a diverse variety of frogs. Just be sure to avoid touching them, for your and their safety
Here is how you can find frogs in California:
- What Toads Can You Find Toads in the USA?
- 10 Tips to Find Aquatic Frogs
- 8 Tips to Find Tree Frogs
- 4 Easy Ways to Find Toads
Peralta-García, Anny, et al. “AFRICAN CLAWED FROG (XENOPUS LAEVIS) IN BAJA CALIFORNIA: A CONFIRMED POPULATION AND POSSIBLE ONGOING INVASION IN MEXICAN WATERSHEDS.” The Southwestern Naturalist, vol. 59, no. 3, Southwestern Association of Naturalists, 2014, pp. 431–34, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44732134