Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Episode 424 (6-11-18): Fowler's Toad

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:24).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, an image, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-9-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 11, 2018.

SOUND - ~4 sec

That crying-like call is this week’s amphibious mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 10 more seconds, and see if you can guess what makes this call.  And here’s a hint: the name sounds like, but has nothing to do with, the collective name for chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese.

SOUNDS - ~13 sec

If you guessed a Fowler’s Toad, you’re right! Y ou heard this species of amphibian calling along the James River near Howardsville, Va., on an evening in July 2009.  Named for S.P. Fowler, a Massachusetts naturalist who identified the species in the mid-1800s, Fowler’s Toad is found throughout the eastern half of the United States. It’s one of five toad species found in Virginia.  In the Commonwealth, the species is found statewide and is particularly common in the Coastal Plain region.

During breeding season from March or April into July or August, the males’ mating call—sounding somewhat like a human baby’s cry—can be heard in shallow water near rivers, along lakeshores and roadsides, or in fields or gardens.  Breeding produces long strands of eggs numbering several thousand, which develop into tadpoles in about a week, turn into juvenile toads—or toadlets—in about two months, and become reproductive adults in two years.

Juvenile and adult Fowler’s Toads eat a variety of insects and other invertebrate animals, and in turn are prey for some snakes and birds, American Bullfrogs, and raccoons. The toad’s toxic skin secretions sometimes result in a surviving toad and a disappointed predator.

We close with one more sample of the distinctive call of Fowler’s Toads, from The Calls of Virginia Frogs and Toads, by Lang Elliott’s NatureSound Studio and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

SOUND - ~ 8 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The first two recordings of Fowler’s Toad sounds heard in this episode were recorded on July 12, 2009, along the James River near Howardsville, Va. (Albemarle County).

The closing sounds were from The Calls of Virginia Frogs and Toads CD, by Lang Elliott’s NatureSound Studio and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2008, used with permission.  Information about that CD is available online at http://www.shopdgif.com/product.cfm?uid=1928838&context=&showInactive=N; or contact the Department at 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230; phone: (804) 367-1000 (VTDD); e-mail: dgifweb@dgif.virginia.gov.  Lang Elliott’s work is available online at his “Music of Nature” Web site, http://www.musicofnature.org/.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode. More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Fowler’s Toad calling beside the James River near Howardsville, Va. (Albemarle County), 9 p.m., July 12, 2009.


The current scientific name for Fowler’s Toad is Anaxyrus fowleri.

Here are some points about Fowler’s Toad, excerpted from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service/Fowler’s Toad,” online at http://vafwis.org/fwis/booklet.html?&bova=020062&Menu=_.Taxonomy&version=17690.

Physical Description
“This species is 2 to 3 inches (50-75 mm) long.  Its dorsum [top side] color ranges from brown to olive to gray with a light mid-dorsal stripe.  The dark dorsal spots typically each have 3 or more warts. … The venter [underside] is generally unspotted though some specimens have a large dark breast patch. Males are smaller than the females and have a black throat.  This species hybridizes with [other toads], making identification sometimes difficult.”

“This species breeds from March to July.  During the breeding season, the male emits a discordant call lasting 1-4 seconds. Mating occurs in the shallows along stream, lake and pond borders.  …The female lays approximately 7000 eggs in 2 gelatinous strings. T he eggs hatch in about 1 week. These tadpoles metamorphose in 1 to 2 months.  The newly transformed toads range in size from 8 to 11 mm.”

“During breeding season, males call from shallow bodies of water including ditches, ponds and streams.  Toads may appear in areas where not previously known during heavy rains following a period of drought.”

Aquatic/Terrestrial Associations
”This species is abundant on the coastal plain with a more patchy distribution further inland. The inland populations are typically found in sandy areas around shores of lakes or in river valleys.”

Food Habits
“The adults eat a great variety of invertebrate animals, mostly insects.”


Used for Audio

AmphibiaWeb, University of California-Berkeley, “Anaxyrus fowleri/Fowler’s Toad,” online https://amphibiaweb.org/species/173.

John D. Kleopfer and Chris S. Hobson, A Guide to the Frogs and Toad of Virginia, Special Publication Number 3, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 2011; purchase information available online at https://www.shopdgif.com.

J.C. Mitchell and K.K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries/Richmond (1999).

New Hampshire PBS, “Wildlife Journal Junior/Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri),” online at http://www.nhptv.org/wild/fowlerstoad.asp.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at http://vafwis.org/fwis/.  The entry for Fowler’s Toad is at http://vafwis.org/fwis/booklet.html?&bova=020062&Menu=_.Taxonomy&version=17690.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Virginia is for Frogs” Web site, online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/virginia-is-for-frogs/.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Wildlife Information/Species Information/Amphibians” online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/information/?t=1.  The Fowler’s Toad entry specifically is online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/information/fowlers-toad/.

Virginia Herpetological Society, online at http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.  The Fowler’s Toad entry specifically is online at http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/fowlers-toad/fowlers_toad.php.

For More Information about Amphibians

Bernard S. Martof, et al., Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1980.

Donna Morelli, Catch the spring action at a vernal pool near you, Bay Journal, 2/8/18.  This article is on amphibian breeding in spring temporary pools, known as “vernal pools.”  It includes a list of local parks and other areas in the Bay watershed areas of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania that sponsor amphibian monitoring or viewing events.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Virginia Frog and Toad Calling Survey,” online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/frogsurvey/; part of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, online at https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp/.  These programs use the sensitivity of amphibians to water availability and quality as a tool for assessing changes or threats to aquatic systems.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Amphibians” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on Virginia frogs and toads generally:
Episode 206, 3/24/14 – Spring Serenade;
Episode 371, 6/5/17 – Virginia Herpetological Society’s “Herp Blitz”;
Episode 408, 2/19/18 – Frog and Toad Medley.

Listed below are previous episodes on specific frogs or toads:
American Toad – Episode 413, 3-26-18;
Barking Treefrog – Episode 319, 6/6/16;
Bullfrog – Episode 74, 8/8/11;
Eastern Spadefoot – Episode 357, 2/27/17;
Green Frog – Episode 310, 4/4/16;
Spring Peeper – Episode 105, 4/2/12.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 - basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 - animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
2.4 - life cycles.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.6 - ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.

Biology Course
BIO.6 - bases for modern classification systems, including structures, biochemistry, and developmental stages.
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels:
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade;
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade;
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade; Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school;
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.