Fowler's Toad Eastern Spadefoot Toad Northern Leopard Frog Redback Salamander
Northern Dusky
Two-lined Salamander Four-toed Salamander Spring Salamander Blue-spotted Salamander

Bufo woodhousii fowleri
Fowler's toad
Fowler's Toads are widely distributed throughout eastern North America; however, they are uncommon in Rhode Island- found only in a few localized areas. In Rhode Island, the breeding season for Fowler's toads starts much later in the year than the more common American Toad (Bufo americanus). They typically start to call at breeding ponds from late May through June (Tupper 2001); whereas, American toads are known to vocalize in April (Crouch 1999). Tupper, who study Fowler's toad ecology at 2 coastal sites in Rhode Island, found that they begin to call soon after emerging from hibernation (Tupper 2001).

Fowler's toads prefer habitats with sandy, well-drained soils. Typical breeding sites include beaches, coasts, lake shores, or river banks (Wright and Wright 1949). They tend to breed in the shallow areas of permanent water (Wright and Wright 1949).

Fowler's and American toads are thought to hybridize in areas where habitat conditions are suitable to both species.

  • Fowler's toad has a white venter, with a small dark spot in the pectoral region, whereas the American toad tends to have many dark spots on ventral side.
  • Fowler's dorsal ground color tends to be grayish, greenish, or whitish with large dark spots.
  • The large dark spots on dorsum of Fowler's typically have 3 or 4 warts per spot, whereas American toads have 1-2 warts per spot.
  • Their dorsums tend to be smoother than American toads.
  • The vertebral stripe can be much more evident than in American toads.
  • Male Fowler's toads have dark throats.
  • Fowler's toads egg masses resemble those of American toads, both are long, spiraling strings of several thousand black eggs (P. Paton, pers. obs.).
  • The tadpoles of both species are similar, and are difficult to impossible to distinguish.
  • The cranial ridges on top of the head have lateral branches extending behind the eye. Behind these ridges are the large bean-shaped parotoid glands. On Fowler's toad these two features connect completely. In the American toad theses two features do not touch or are connected by a short spur.
  • Voice: the call of a Fowler's toad is a low-pitched "waah", in contrast to the long trill of an American toad.
    Fowler's toads and American toads will hybridize (Klemens 1993).

Scaphiopus h. holbrookii
spadefoot spadefoot foot
notice the black tubercles (spades)on the inside of the feet used for digging
The Eastern spadefoot toad is probably the rarest and least known species of frog that occurs in Rhode Island. They apparently prefer lower elevation sites, although C. Raithel found one at 470 feet (143 m) in Coventry, Rhode Island (Klemens 1993). Klemens (1993) reported on specimens from Providence (in the early 1900s), Barrington, and Bristol County, while C. Raithel recently documented specimens in the western half of the state. Rhode Island is the northern limits of their range, which might explains why there are less than 10 documented records of this species in the state (C. Raithel pers comm.).

Spadefoots appear to be a species that prefers sandy, well-drained soils, but may also use clay or loamy soils (Klemens 1993). They live where they can bury into the ground with their specially adapted hind feet (see photo). They spend most of their time underground but are active at night throughout the warmer months (Green and Pauley 1987). In southern New England, these animals tend to be most active from early May to late August (Klemens 1993).


  • The only toad in Rhode Island with a golden eye and a vertical pupil.
  • Spadefoots are a moderately-sized toad with relatively smooth skin and relatively small warts.
  • They have a brownish, gray dorsum with two yellowish stripes.
  • Their venter is white (photo at right).
  • They have a unique hind foot, with a black tubercle used for digging.
spadefoot toad

Look closely -we placed a metamorph on the back of an adult to
illustrate the difference in size of the two age groups



Rana pipiens


Leopard frogs are rare in Rhode Island and throughout the region (Klemens 1993). In Rhode Island, they are only known from scattered sites on Aquidneck Island (Newport and Portmouth), Conanicut Island (Jamestown), and the eastern side of Narragansett Bay (Raithel pers. comm.). All accounts of leopard frogs west of the bay are erroneous and are most likely the more common and similar looking pickerel frog (Rana palustris). These two species are frequently confused (see pickerel frog ).

Leopard frogs prefer open, grassy habitats near large rivers or streams (Klemens 1993). They are semi-terrestrial spending only the summer months (June-to August) away from water (Hinshaw 1999). During the winter, they hibernate in the substrate of permanent ponds and in the spring they migrate to breeding ponds (Green and Pauley 1987).

Leopard frogs are commonly used during biology classes.


Plethodon cinereus
redback salamander 'leadback' salamander
Red morph (left), "leadback" (right)

The redback salamander is the most common amphibian in Rhode Island. They are a small, terrestrial species that occurs most often in coniferous and deciduous woodland habitats (Klemens 1993) but, can be found virtually anywhere throughout the state, with the exception of some islands (C. Raithel pers. comm.). Redback salamanders are common throughout eastern North America. In New Hampshire, Burton and Likens (1975) estimated that this species accounted for 94% of the amphibian biomass in the forest, and was twice as great as the biomass of the avifauna and equal to the biomass of the small mammals.

The redback is the only entirely terrestrial salamander in Rhode Island. So, although this species may be captured near ponds, they breed in upland habitats. They lay their eggs under rotten logs and small underground crevices. In the spring, the yellowish embryos can be seen under the translucent skin of gravid females (P. Paton, pers. obs.). Females can also be distinguished from males by head shape- males tend to have a squared-off nose, whereas females have a rounder head.

Several color morphs exist for this species. The two most common morphs have either a red stripe running the length of the dorsum, or a dorsum uniformly dark gray to black (usually referred to as a leadback). Another form is the rare erythristic morph which is bright red or pinkish on the dorsum.



Desmognathus f. fuscus
dusky salamander

The northern dusky salamander is found throughout eastern North America, and is widely distributed in southern New England (Klemens 1993); however, it is relatively uncommon in Rhode Island (C. Raithel in Klemens 1993). Dusky salamanders are usually found in forested areas in cool springs or small streams, where they are often detected under large flat stones, pieces of wood, bark or other debris. They remain in these areas year round, seldom wandering far from running water (Conant and Collins 1998).

Duskies appear sensitive to habitat disturbance and water quality, as they are rare in urbanized areas (Klemens 1993).

dusky habitat
Dusky habitat in western Rhode Island      


  • Duskies have a brownish colored dorsum which typically darkens with age.
    In the darkness of a forested area they may appear black but in better light
    mottling patterns are obvious. (Markowsky 1999).
  • They have a grayish venter with a black and white border.
  • The tail is laterally flattened, with a narrow dorsal keel.
  • A white line extends from the eye to the jaw.
  • Rear legs are much stouter than forelimbs.

                                                                                                    Dusky -ventral view
dusky habitat

Eurycea bislineata

The northern two-lined is a medium sized salamander, with relatively slender limbs. They are common throughout the region and in Rhode Island. They can tolerate disturbed habitats. Two-lined salamanders are a stream species (they do not breed in vernal pools). They are found in high-gradient mountain streams, muddy flood river plains, wooded swamps, seeps, springs, and damp woodlands (Klemens 1993). They oviposit on the underside of flat stones in streams. In southern New England, their breeding season typically occurs during May and June (Klemens 1993).

Two-lined salamanders appear to be relatively secure in the region.

· Two-lined salamanders have variable dorsal colors, ranging from yellowish, to olive green, to bronze, to light gray.
· A dark line runs down both sides of the dorsum; hence the name two-lined.
· Their ventrum is white to yellowish.
· They have a laterally flattened tail which can be bright orange underneath.


Hemidactylium scutatum
4-toed salamander

Four-toed salamanders range throughout eastern North America, but populations are patchy throughout southern New England (Klemens 1993). Klemens (1993) reported that Raithel (pers. comm.) found four-toed salamanders to be common throughout mainland Rhode Island, as well as, on the some of the larger island in the Narragansett Bay. Lazell (1976) found the species on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Naushon Island.

Four-toed salamanders are much less obvious than many other amphibians in the region, therefore their ecology is less understood. They are active throughout the year, except cold winter months with snow on the ground (Klemens 1993). They are often found under debris near red maple swamps. Four-toed salamanders are often near areas with sphagnum moss, where they typically deposit their eggs. We documented four-toed salamanders migrating to a vernal pond in March in southern Rhode Island (Paton et al. 2000).

Klemens (1993) believes this species is relatively secure in the region because they occur often on protected lands in southern New England.

· Four-toed salamanders have 4 toes on the hind feet, all other salamanders in Rhode Island have 5 toes.
· They have a distinct constriction at the base of the tail.  If grabbed by the tail, the tail will easily disconnect from the body.
· Their venter is enamel white with black spotting, and their dorsal is reddish-brown.



Gyrinophilus p. porphyriticus

The northern spring salamander ranges from south-western Maine and southern Quebec to northern Alabama (Green and Pauley 1987). They are common in the upland regions of Vermont and New Hampshire but are rare in southern New England (Klemens 1993), and likewise, a very rare species in Rhode Island. This salamander is a habitat specialist that needs cold, clean water with relatively high levels of oxygen. Therefore, it is found only in areas with high-gradient streams, brooks, or seeps in relatively undisturbed habitats (Klemens 1993). They have only been reported from a few localities in Rhode Island (C. Raithel pers. comm.).

The northern spring salamander is on of the largest of the lungless salamanders (Green and Pauley 1987). It is the only large (total length = 12-19 cm) salamander found in Rhode Island with an orange to purplish-brown dorsum and white venter (Klemens 1993).

Spring salamanders are listed as a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut (Markowsky 1999).


Ambystoma laterale

The blue-spotted salamander is a moderately-sized mole salamander with a blackish body and blue spots on the flanks, legs, and vent. There are no documented records of this species in the state (C. Raithel, pers. comm.). DeGraaf and Yamasaki (2001) incorrectly show their range extending into Rhode Island. This species has been recorded in Connecticut and Massachusetts not far from the Rhode Island border (Klemens 1993). So, there may be some isolated populations in the state. This species tends to occur in wooded swamps, and will tolerate disturbed habitats (Klemens 1993). Adults are typically predominantly active early in the year (March-April), although they may be detected during the rest of the year under the cover of woody debris (Klemens 1993). See Klemens (1993) for an excellent account of this species and the similar Jefferson Salamander (A. jeffersonianum; also not verified in Rhode Island), with which A. laterale often hybridizes.