Frog Species in Massachusetts

The frogs of Massachusetts come in many colors, and they inhabit a variety of habitats, from lakes to trees to woodlands. The 10 species in Massachusetts belong to four scientific families. Five species, including the familiar American bullfrog, belong to the family Ranidae, the true frogs. Two species are members of the true toad family Bufonidae. Two belong to the family Hylidae, the tree frogs and allies. One frog is a member of the Scaphiopodidae family of American spadefoot toads.

American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

American bullfrog © Joy Marzolf
American bullfrog © Joy Marzolf

This is our largest frog. It has a green face and a green-brown body. A ridge of skin runs from its eye curving around its external eardrum (tympanum). Found statewide except in Dukes County, it inhabits permanent bodies of water such as ponds and marshes, and eats almost anything it can grab. You can hear its deep “jug-a-rum” call in late spring and summer. It lays its eggs as a film on the water’s surface.


American toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

American toad © Rosemary Mosco
American toad © Rosemary Mosco

A member of the true toad family Bufonidae, this common species is brown with large warts and has a white belly with black dots. It can often be found on the forest floor, eating small creatures such as slugs and worms. Its long trilling call is heard in spring and summer, and it lays long strings of eggs. It’s found across the state except on Nantucket.


Eastern spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii)

Eastern spadefoot © Richard Johnson
Eastern spadefoot © Richard Johnson

This brownish animal is often called a spadefoot toad, though it’s not related to the true toads. It has yellow stripes, small warts, and catlike pupils. The term spadefoot comes from the hard digging structures on its hind feet. Rarely seen, it spends much of its time underground or hunting for small prey at night. After a strong rainfall event during the warm months, it breeds in shallow temporary pools. It’s mostly found in the Connecticut River Valley and on Cape Cod. Learn more about our work with spadefoot toads

Status

Threatened in Massachusetts, and under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act it is illegal to kill, harass, or possess this animal.


Fowler's toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)

Fowler's toad © Lisa Perlick, USFWS
Fowler's toad © Lisa Perlick, USFWS

Another so-called true toad, this species looks a lot like the American toad. However, it has clusters of small warts, a mostly spotless belly, and poison glands that meet at the back of the eyes. It’s found in sandy areas near wetlands, and the female lays long strings of eggs in permanent water. Listen for the nasal “wahhh” call in spring and summer. It lives throughout the state except on Nantucket.


Gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

Gray treefrog © Joy Marzolf
Gray treefrog © Joy Marzolf

A master of camouflage, this gray-brown frog blends in with the tree bark on which it perches. Its call, heard from spring through summer, is a short, high-pitched trill. It lays clumps of 10 to 14 eggs along the shores of ponds. Young frogs are bright green. Find it everywhere but Dukes and Nantucket Counties.


Green frog (Lithobates clamitans)

Green frog © Rosemary Mosco
Green frog © Rosemary Mosco

This is one of our most familiar frogs and is found statewide. It has a green face and a green-brown body, and a ridge running down each of its sides. This species prefers permanent or semipermanent water bodies, eating whatever it can grab, from insects to snakes to birds. The call is a banjo-like “gunk,” and the female lays a thousand or more eggs at a time as a film on the water’s surface.


Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens)

Northern leopard frog © Rosemary Mosco
Northern leopard frog © Rosemary Mosco

Named for its pattern, this vibrant frog has dark spots outlined in a lighter color. It relies on a diversity of habitats, breeding in marshes and floodplains, hunting in fields, and wintering in permanent water bodies. In spring it makes a rattling, grunting call and lays dark masses of eggs. Look for this frog statewide except for Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket Counties.


Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)

Pickerel frog © Rosemary Mosco
Pickerel frog © Rosemary Mosco

This species looks much like a leopard frog, but with more angular spots that aren’t lined in a lighter color, and with bright yellow under its waist and down its thighs. Found statewide, it inhabits ponds, wetlands, and slow-moving streams, breeding in spring and making a snoring call.


Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

Spring peeper © Joy Marzolf
Spring peeper © Joy Marzolf

A small, round frog with a dark mask, it often has a brown cross on its back, which led to the species name crucifer, meaning “cross-bearer”. This frog inhabits wooded areas near wetlands and ponds all across Massachusetts. In the spring it makes a loud, high-pitched peeping call to attract a mate. The eggs are laid singly or in small groups on underwater vegetation.


Wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)

Wood frog © Jane Parker
Wood frog © Jane Parker

This masked frog looks somewhat like a much larger spring peeper, but look for the ridges running down the sides and no pattern on the back. True to its name, it lives in forests, breeding in temporary, or vernal, pools. It attracts mates with a quacking call, and the female lays large masses of eggs. Find this species everywhere but in Dukes and Nantucket Counties. Learn more about vernal pools