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Spring warm up brings a variety of frogs and toads to the surface, and with them often come identification challenges. A wild double take of the Woodhouse's and American toads can reveal differences in the shape and proximity of the ridges and glands on the head, patterning on the belly, and breeding calls. 

Frog or toad? Frogs and toads are both members of the taxonomic order “Anura,” meaning “no tail.” Some enthusiasts chose to call anurans with rough skin “toads” and anurans with smooth skin “frogs.” And while some families or groups are referred to as “true toads” or “true frogs,” there are also groups of spadefoot toads and narrow-mouthed toads and treefrogs, chorus frogs, and cricket frogs. Regardless of their common names or family associations, can’t we just agree to call these amphibians amazing? 

Watch Wild Double Take: Woodhouse’s and American Toads on YouTube.

Find tips for identifying Oklahoma’s look-alike species in our video series on YouTube.

Similarities: Woodhouse’s and American toads are both amphibians with rough, warty skin and large, puffy parotoid glands behind the eyes. (These glands can produce a substance that irritates and deters predators.) Both species have dark splotches on the body, with warts occurring inside the blotches. And both species begin their mating calls in early spring, sometimes as early as February. Each species lays long chains of dark eggs in the water that hatch within a few days. The tadpoles, or “toadpoles,” are dark in color and metamorphose into small froglets in 5-8 weeks. 

Differences: In addition to the overall size at maturity, these look-alike toads can be differentiated by the shape and proximity of the ridges and glands on the head, patterning on the belly, and breeding calls. The larger Woodhouse’s toad has ridges of skin, or cranial crests, that begin between the eyes and touch the large parotoid glands located behind the eyes. They typically have a whitish belly that has a single dark spot at the throat and a distinctive white line down the back. The mating call is a high-pitched “waaah.” In contrast, the cranial crests of the smaller American toad do not touch the parotoid gland, or only touch from a spur. They tend to have a redder back and more spotting on the belly. The mating call is a high-pitched trill. 

Fun Fact: The subspecies of American toad found in Oklahoma is known as the dwarf American toad and was first described from a specimen collected near Norman

If you see a Woodhouse’s or American toad while exploring Outdoor Oklahoma, consider sharing the sighting on free nature platforms like iNaturalist. Adding a photo to your observation can allow others to help confirm the identification. 

These Oklahoma look-alikes are included in the Wildlife Department’s “A Field Guide to Oklahoma’s Amphibians and Reptiles.” Tips for identification, a map of the Oklahoma range and information about the diet and preferred habitats are provided for 135 of the species that can be found in our state. The book’s spiral binding makes it easy to flip through and make comparisons of different species when identifying animals at home or in the field. Copies are available at