10 Toads That Live in the Desert

Toads are amphibians that can be found in almost any environment, including the desert. These toads that live in the desert are known for their ability to withstand extreme heat and dryness. They’ve adapted to these conditions by being able to absorb moisture through their skin even when they’re underground.

In this article, we’ll learn about some desert toads and some facts about them so we can get to know them better.

10 Toads that live in the desert

5 Facts About Desert Toads

  1. Survival Skills:  They can endure extended periods without water by burrowing underground and entering a deep sleep until the next rain.
  2. Blend in with the Scenery: Toads’ earth-toned coloration helps them blend with desert sand, providing camouflage from potential threats.
  3. Night Owls: They are nocturnal, emerging at night to escape the daytime heat and utilize slightly higher moisture levels.
  4. Unremarkable Reproduction: They follow a simple reproduction strategy, mating and laying eggs in rain-formed pools to ensure offspring survival when water is present.
  5. Dull Diet: They mainly eat insects and small creatures active during cooler desert nights, focusing on sustenance rather than excitement.

1. Great Basin spadefoot toad

Great basin spadefoot toad
Great basin spadefoot toad | image by gilaman via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name:  Spea intermontana

The Great Basin spadefoot toad is an amphibian that lives in dry environments such as deserts. You can find this amphibian in British Columbia, Colorado, California, Arizona, and Oregon.

This species’ diet consists primarily of arthropods and insects such as ants, flies, and beetles. Great basins will also eat anything smaller than themselves if they can catch it.

During the cold and dry seasons, this species burrows beneath the dry ground and spends its time there. They have no difficulty obtaining moisture since they can absorb water from the soil in their surroundings.

2. Desert Spadefoot Toad

Desert spadefoot toad on sand
Desert spadefoot toad on sand | image by nicolekearney via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

Scientific Name: Notaden nichollsi

The Desert Spadefoot Toad is a type of amphibian that lives in Australia’s desert. They typically have brown skin that’s covered in warts that are yellow and red. They’re nocturnal amphibians that can dig burrows up to one meter deep.

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They spend six months underground, cocooned in their own skin. They’ll only come out after the dry season when it’s time for them to breed and feed. These toads primarily eat ants that are present in their environment.

3. Mongolian toad

Mongolian toad on rocks
Mongolian toad on rocks | image by Haplochromis via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Strauchbufo raddei

The Mongolian toad is a toad species found in China, Russia, North Korea, and Mongolia. They’re usually 3 inches long and have a light and dark brown color with red and yellow warts.

Mongolian toads are carnivores that eat mites, spiders, beetles, and caterpillars. These toads prefer sandy soil and shrubbery in desert environments, where they burrow 6 feet underground and hibernate in groups.

4. Red-spotted toad

Red spotted toad
Red spotted toad Credits: Joshua Tree National Park via Flickr

Scientific Name: Anaxyrus punctatus

The Red-spotted toad is a desert animal found from the southern United States to Mexico, most commonly in the Colorado Plateau, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts. The toads are about 3 inches long with distinct red spots on their backs. They feed on insects such as ants, bees, beetles, and spiders of various species.

Red-spotted toad lives in sandy desert areas, where it burrows into the ground and absorbs moisture from the soil. Even if they lose 40% of their body water, these toads can still manage to survive. They hunt primarily at night, but are diurnal during the breeding season.

5. Sonoran Desert Toad

Sonoran desert toad
Sonoran desert toad

Scientific Name: Incilius alvarius

One of the most commonly known toads that live in the desert is the Sonoran Desert Toad. It‘s a species of amphibian found in the Sonoran Desert of southwestern New Mexico and central Arizona. This species has a greenish gray on top and white on the bottom, and a dry, warty skin that isn’t too slippery.

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When handled or under stress, the toad secretes toxins from its skin, making it difficult for predators to consume it. Sonoran Desert Toads eat mostly insects and other invertebrates like worms and beetles, but they’ll also eat small vertebrates like mice and other frogs.

6. Couch’s spadefoot toads

Couch’s spadefoot toad on mud
Couch’s spadefoot toad on mud | image by Clinton & Charles Robertson via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Scaphiopus couchii

Couch’s spadefoot toad is a small spadefoot toad with a short, stocky body that can be green, yellow, or olive in color. This amphibian is found in North American deserts, particularly in Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. It lives in areas with loose sand or sandy soil, digging burrows up to 35 inches deep.

This spadefoot toad is also known to thrive in arid environments, but you can also find it in short grass prairies and grasslands. This species eats beetles, grasshoppers, katydids, ants, spiders, and termites in their natural habitats. It only gets to eat during the rainy season, so they usually consume a year’s worth of food.

7. Great Plains toad

Great Plains toad
Great Plains toad | image by Marshal Hedin via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Anaxyrus cognatus

The Great Plains toad is an amphibian species found in the Sonoran desert. It’s found in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This toad primarily feeds on cutworms, but it’ll also eat crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, moths, caterpillars, flies, beetles, and other bugs.

This amphibian is brownish-green in color with dark blotches on its back. It can grow to be 4 inches long, with females being larger than males. During the breeding season, Great Plains toads emerge from beneath the ground and breed on rain pools, flooded areas, and ponds.

8. Western narrow-mouth toad

Western narrow-mouthed toad on rock
Western narrow-mouthed toad on rock | image by William L. Farr via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name:  Gastrophryne olivacea

The Western narrow-mouth toad is a North American endemic found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mexico. You can find it in a wide range of environments, including arid deserts, forests and woodlands, and grasslands. This small amphibian can grow to be only 1 inch long when fully grown.

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It has a brownish to green and gray body with a white underside. The toads emerge from beneath the ground during the breeding season, which lasts from late May to early July. During this time, males produce a sticky substance on their belly that they use to stick to their mate.

9. Plains Spadefoot

Plains spadefoot toad in hand
Plains spadefoot toad | image credit: USFWS Midwest Region

Scientific Name: Spea bombifrons

The Plains Spadefoot is brownish-gray in color with dark spots and large light-colored eyes. This Spadefoot can be found throughout North America, from Alberta to Mexico. It prefers sandy or rocky soil in dry or semi-arid habitats such as prairies and deserts.

This amphibian generally lives near water sources such as springs and streams but can also be found away from water in dunes or rock outcroppings, where it spends most of its time underground during periods of drought or extreme heat. Ants, centipedes, and beetles are just a few examples of the various species of ground-dwelling bugs that they’ll eat.

10. North American green toad

Green toad
source: Patrick Alexander via Flickr

Scientific Name: Anaxyrus debilis

This green toad is a species that’s native to North America. They’re typically found in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mexico, and other areas with dry sandy environments. These species breed from late March to August, emerging from the ground activated by rainfall.

The amphibians are only 1.8 inches long and have green and black spots. Males typically have yellow skin and are smaller than females. They feed on beetles, caterpillars, mites, and earwigs.

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About Jesse Martin
Enthusiast and pet owner

Jesse grew up with pet reptiles and amphibians and has remained close to them into adulthood. He has experience with boa constrictors, pythons, Argentine horned frogs, bearded dragons, geckos, tortoises, and more. Jesse's daughter currently has a corn snake, her first pet reptile.