Kids' Species Information

California Red-Legged Frog

STATUS

Threatened. This means that we are worried about the species, but it is not in danger of dying out right now.

DESCRIPTION

The California red-legged frog is the largest native frog in the western United States. It is from 4 to 13 centimeters long. (1.5 to 5 inches).

The abdomen and hind legs of adults are largely red. The back has small black flecks and larger irregular dark blotches. These have indistinct outlines on a brown, gray, olive, or reddish background color.

California red-legged frog tadpoles

Photo: Peter Trenham, USFWS

Tadpoles (larvae) are from 14 to 80 mm long. (0.6 to 3 inches) The tadpoles are dark brown and yellow with darker spots.

FOOD

Highly variable. Larvae probably eat algae. Invertebrates are the most common food items of adults. Vertebrates, such as Pacific tree frogs and California mice, are frequently eaten by larger frogs.

HABITAT

The frogs do best when they live in deep-water pools with dense stands of overhanging willows with a fringe of cattails.

RANGE

San Francisco Bay area (including Marin County). Central coast. Isolated populations in a few other places such as the Sierra Nevada.

MATING

The frogs breed from November through March.

PREDATORS

Bullfrogs are a big problem.

THREATS

Loss of habitat from the growth of cities and suburbs. Mining. Overgrazing by cattle. Invasion of nonnative species such as bullfrogs. Diseases. Some recreation activities.

EXPLORE

Catching a CA red-legged frog requires special training and a permit. Leave that to scientists. With a copy of Pond Life (See More Reading below), you can identify lots of pond animals, including other frogs.

There are a few places where you may be able to see the red-legged frogs. Pt. Reyes National Seashore is one. It is also a wonderful place to see other rare species. Many of these animals and wildflowers are listed as threatened or endangered.

HELP

See What You Can Do to Help Wildlife and Plants (201 KB PDF) for ideas about how to help threatened and endangered species.

MORE READING

Pond Life: A Guide to Common Plants and Animals of North American Ponds and Lakes by George K. Reid. Golden Books. A tiny, inexpensive book that is a must for anyone studying ponds.

California red-legged frog.

Two fun sites with lots of good stuff:

Words to Learn

Biologists who study snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders and other reptiles and amphibians are called herpetologists.

We call the California red-legged frog Rana aurora draytonii. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

The ending draytonii after Rana aurora means that this is a subspecies. Some herpetologists say that it is a separate species. They call it just plain Rana draytonii

Herpetologists call tadpoles (newborn frogs) larvae.

Photo Credits: Frog: Carley Sweet. Tadpoles: Peter Trenham. Both USFWS.