Photograph of a Newborn Spadefoot Toad

This photograph of a newly developed spadefoot was taken by Jennifer Williams.

Desert Duets: Couch's Spadefoot Info Web Page

Information about Spadefoots

Although spadefoots are commonly referred to as “toads,” spadefoots have smoother skin than “true” toads and teeth where most toads have none. When fully developed, spadefoots are two and a quarter to three and a half inches long. They have greenish or yellowish netlike markings on a dark brown or black background. Unlike many animals in nature, the females are more brightly colored than the males.

Spadefoots also have vertical pupils, but their most distinctive feature is the dark-colored spade on each of their hind feet. The spades are long and shaped like a sickle. Spadefoots use them for burrowing in the desert sand and soil. They burrow in backward and can dig as deep as six feet.

Spadefoots spend most of the year underground. When they hear the sound of thunder, sense its vibrations, or hear the patter of raindrops, spadefoots dig up from underground to mate and eat. They mate and lay eggs in rain pools. Spadefoots eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and termites. They can eat enough in one or two nights to last the entire year underground.

When the summer rains come to the Sonoran Desert, people hear the males bleating like goats. Their call is quite loud. According to scientists, a female toad selects the healthiest mate based on the deepness and loudness of the male's call. To hear the Couch's spadefoot's call, use the links on the resources page.

The Couch’s spadefoot gets its name from a Civil War General named Darius Nash Couch who collected the first specimens of this species for the Smithsonian Institution.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 10 September 2012