Photo by Jodie Owen

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Scientific Name: Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus

Classification: Nongame species

Abundance: Common (green area)

American Toad (Photo by Jodie Owen)

American Toad (Photo by Alicia Davis)


The American toad's calls is a long, high-pitched, musical trill, often lasting up to 30 seconds. Males also produce a chirping "release" call if handled or mistakenly grabbed by another male.

The American toad is the largest toad species in North Carolina, and accounts for one of four toad species in the Bufonidae family, native to the Tar Heel state. The other three toad species are the southern toad, Fowler’s toad and oak toad. Toads resemble frogs and together they make up the order Anura; however, only toads belong to the family Bufonidae. Toads prefer uplands to the watery habitats of frogs, and they hop rather than leap like frogs. 

The American toad has a short, broad body and a rounded snout. It grows from 2 to 4 inches long, with adult females larger than adult males. Its back may be brown, gray, olive red or tan, and it often has a light stripe down the middle.  The belly is pale, but the male’s throat appears darker, especially during breeding season. Dark spots with one or two large warts dot the toad’s back. The number of warts in each spot helps distinguish the American toad from the Fowler’s toad, which looks similar but has three or more small warts in each spot. The belly is pale, but the male’s throat appears darker, especially during breeding season. Learn more by reading the American toad species profile.

The American toad is classified as a nongame species with no open season. It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.

There are no reported problems with this species. 

Frogs and toads can be monitored fairly easily in a variety of ways. One way is through frog call monitoring. The North Carolina Calling Amphibian Survey Program attempts to do just that by corralling data collected by volunteers across the state that monitors specific frog call routes. Each species of frog and toad has a unique call that is distinguishable from others.  Some are more difficult for humans to separate than others, but the frogs know who’s who!  Learn your frog calls, and you too can distinguish who’s calling in the ponds.  Another way to monitor frogs and toads is by looking for egg masses deposited in wetlands and/or by looking for tadpoles in those same wetlands. Different frogs breed at different times of the year, so when to look for eggs is dependent on the species of interest. Eggs typically hatch within a couple weeks of being deposited, so there is a fairly short window for detection. Frog eggs can sometimes be identified to family, but are somewhat tricky to identify to species level.  Tadpole identification can be similarly tricky, so learning and listening to frog calls is definitely the easiest method for determining what frogs and toads are using a wetland. Tadpoles are a little easier to monitor, as most species have tadpoles present in wetlands for longer periods of time. This is, again, variable by species.  Most species have tadpole stages that last at least several months, but the range in timing for different species is everything from a couple of weeks to several years.  The smaller frog and toad species tend to have shorter tadpole cycles, while the larger frogs and toads tend to have longer times to metamorphosis.