Colorado River Toad

The Colorado River toad is the largest native toad to North America. It is also called the Sonoran Desert toad.

Where Do They Live?

The Colorado River toad is found in the southwest United States and Mexico. Specifically, it resides along the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Mexico.

While it does come out during the rain, the Colorado River toad is a mainly terrestrial toad. It enjoys the desert and semi-arid habitats, as well as grasslands and woodlands.

It spends most of its underground time in rodent burrows.

Colorado River Toad

What Do They Look Like?

The Colorado River toad has smooth, leathery skin which can make observers confuse it with a frog.

It has olive green to dark brown skin. Its belly is a light cream colour. Younger toads have orange tipped spots on their backs.

These toads can be distinguished from frogs because of their cranial crest, as well as large glands on the back of their heads and hind legs. Females have a line of reddish warts on their backs.

The Colorado River toad can grow to be 7.5 inches in length. Tadpoles grow to about 2.25 inches. 

What Do They Eat?

The diet of the Colorado River toad is wide ranging. They are omnivores that will eat spiders, insects, small mice, small lizards, and other toads.

Animals with stingers or defensive toxins are not safe from the Colorado River toad, as they will also eat scorpions, wasps, and amphibians.

Colorado River Toad Food

How Do They Behave?

The Colorado River toad is not suited for the warm days of the southwest. Because of this, it spends the day underground so that it may keep cool. Feedings take place during the nocturnal hours.

Most humans see the Colorado River toad at night during the monsoon season. Outside of this time, most Colorado River toads spend their time underground. 

To protect itself from predators, the Colorado River toad has a unique adaptation. When threatened, it will produce a milky substance from under its jaw. This substance is a hallucinogenic that will cause the predator to become nauseous and possibly die if it eats it.

Population Size

The breeding season for the Colorado River toad takes place between May and July. Toads gather near water sources where the females lay their eggs. Males use their low-pitched hoot to call females.

Females lay their eggs in slow moving shallow water. Female Colorado River toads can lay up to 8,000 eggs at once.

The Colorado River toad develops into a toad much faster than other frogs and toads. Tadpoles hatch 2-12 days after fertilization. They turn into froglets in just 30 days. 

Colorado River Toad Population

Interesting Facts

  • While the Colorado River toad is not endangered nationally, it is listed as “endangered” in California and “threatened” in New Mexico
  • The toxin released by Colorado River toads protects it from the striped skunk
  • Adult toads are likely safe from most predators due to their size and poisonous toxin
  • The male’s call sounds like a ferry boat whistle
  • Toads are technically a type of frog, though they typically have short hind legs and walk instead of hop