Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Frogs and Toads (Order Anura)

Spadefoot Toads (Family Pelobatidae)

Eastern Spadefoot
Scaphiopus holbrookii

Photo of adult Eastern Spadefoot, courtesy of John White
Photo of adult Eastern Spadefoot courtesy of John White

Close-up of spade on Eastern Spadefoot, photo courtesy John White
Close-up Photo of spade on Eastern Spadefoot courtesy John White


  • 1 - 2 inches
  • Record - 2⅞ inches.
  • Appearance

  • A relatively smooth-skinned toad without parotoid glands
  • Has grayish brown back with two yellowish lines running from behind eyes down the back in a “lyre-shaped” pattern.
  • Small reddish orange spots may also be present.
  • Key diagnostic feature is the dark brown, elongated, sickle-shaped spade on the bottom of each hindfoot.
  • It also has vertically elliptical pupils.
  • Photo of Habitat for Eastern Spadefoot courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Habitat for Eastern Spadefoot
    courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers


  • Areas of sandy, loose soil in or adjacent to forests.
  • Typically observed during breeding, in shallow depressions or vernal wetlands in open areas (pastures, fields) adjacent to woods.
  • Primarily found on Coastal Plain.
  • How to Find

  • Listen for their distinctive explosive grunt call “geeoo”, likened to the sound of young crows, on nights during or following torrential rains, with air temperatures 50o F.
  • They are explosive breeders, calling only 2-5 nights per year at any one site.
  • Breeding can occur from March-September, but usually from late March to mid-May.
  • May also be found crossing roads on warm rainy nights.
  • Maryland Distribution Map
    Maryland Distribution Map for Eastern Spadefoot

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    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.