Is That a Houston Toad Hopping in my Yard?

The Houston area has been very fortunate so far this summer to have had rain. Not only is the rain keeping our outdoor plants and trees alive, it has also increased the activity of many nocturnal critters, especially amphibians!  After a good rain, we get lots of emails here at the zoo from people wondering what sort of frogs and toads they are spotting  around the places they live.  In this post we will discuss the three, most common amphibians that you have seen (or heard) around your house or apartment in Houston!

1) Gulf Coast toad (Incilius nebulifer) – This toad is the most common amphibian found in everyone’s backyards, school play grounds, bayou easements, and parks. These hardy little critters can live almost anywhere as long as there is some access to water. Ever find a toad sitting in your dog’s outdoor water bowl? It is most likely a Gulf Coast toad. Because they have a somewhat similar appearance (thickened, warty skin that is dark brown, tan, and green in appearance) many people mistake Gulf Coast toads for Houston toads; however, Houston toads haven’t been found in Houston for more than 20 years.  To learn more about the differences between a Gulf Coast toad and a Houston toad, please check out this video.

2) Rio Grande Chirping frog (Syrrhophus cystignathoides) – Have you ever been outside at night and heard what you though sounded like a bird chirping in the bushes? What you heard is not a bird at all, but a tiny little frog! The Rio Grande Chirping frog is a little over an inch long and often brown or yellowish green in color. Because they are so small they are often very difficult to spot at night hiding in the bushes, plants pots, or in leaf litter. Though they are originally from northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, these little frogs are increasing their range due to the transport of pots and plants from these more southern areas!

3) Green Tree Frog  (Hyla cinerea) – The Green Tree Frog can be commonly heard in neighborhoods and parks around Houston that have both trees and water.  Good places to listen for these frogs in the evening are Terry Hershey Park, the arboretum at Memorial Park, as well as Herman Park and the Houston Zoo.  These very green frogs (hence the name) are around 2.5 inches long and have a white stripe down the sides of their body. These frogs sound like a duck when they call at night and many people mistakenly think that they are hearing waterfowl roosting in trees!

To learn more about how to tell the difference between the different toads in our area, please visit the Houston Zoo’s “Know your Toad” page.

Think you’ve heard one of the above amphibians call? Check out the following pages to double-check!

Gulf Coast toad information


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