Photo Credit: Carrie Threadgill
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Anaxyrus fowleri
SIMILAR SPECIES: American toad (Bufo americanus)
STATUS: Common statewide in a variety of habitats, including disturbed areas. Alabama's most commonly encountered and widely distributed toad. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: Fowler’s toad is a small to medium size toad ranging from 2 to 4 inches in length. Their dorsal coloration varies from brownish, grayish, or rarely a greenish color to brick red in a spotted and molted pattern, with males tending to be darker than females. Fowler’s toads have three or more warts in each dark spot. There are no enlarged “warts” located on the underside and legs. They have a light colored stripe down the middle of their back and a pure white belly, which is normally unspotted, except for a single dusky spot on the breast. Fowler’s toad’s paratoid gland touches their postorbital ridge. These glands emit a white, toxic fluid which helps them escape predators. This toxin can cause nausea, burning in the mouth, and in severe cases death. Eastern hog-nose snake, American bullfrogs, raccoons, and some birds appear to be immune to this toxin.
DISTRIBUTION: Fowler’s toad is an abundant toad found in the Atlantic Coastal Plain ranging from New England to Michigan, Arkansas, and south to Louisiana. They are absent from the southern part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, including most of Florida.
HABITAT: Fowler’s toad’s habitat can vary widely from residential areas to woodlands with moist areas and small bodies of water (i.e. ponds, creeks, ditches, marshes, flooded fields). These toads prefer open woodlands, meadows, and beaches. During hot, dry periods and in the wintertime they like to burrow into the ground. Often seen on roads.
FEEDING HABITS: Fowler’s toads feed on insects, arthropods, and other invertebrates. Surprisingly, some research has shown they are reluctant to consume earthworms. They are mostly nocturnal but have been seen active during overcast humid days. As with most toads, Fowler’s toads hop when disturbed or pursued by predators and walk when approaching prey. Fowler’s toads are useful to have in gardens because they eat many insects and other small invertebrates.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Fowler’s toads breed March to August, often in more permanent aquatic sites than other toads. Eggs are laid in long strings consisting of about 7,000 eggs and attached to vegetation in water. Embryos hatch in about one week and tadpoles transform in 30–60 days. The adults hibernate in cold weather by burrowing into the soil. Fowler’s toads have several predators such as snakes, birds, and small mammals. They use their cryptic coloration as a defense mechanism by blending into their background.
Conant, Roger and Collins, Joseph T. 1998. Peterson Field Guides, Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY., NY. 616 pp.
National Audubon Society. 1979. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, North America. Chanticleer Press, Inc. 743 pp.
Vereecke, M. 2001. Anaxyrus fowleri (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Anaxyrus_fowleri.html.
Author: Daniel Toole, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries