Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California
Kids' Species Information
Photo Credit: Flo Gardipee/USFWS
California Red-Legged Frog
Threatened. This means that we are worried about the species, but it is not in danger of dying out right now.
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.
Tadpoles (larvae) are from 14 to 80 mm long. (0.6 to 3 inches) The tadpoles are dark brown and yellow with darker spots.
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.
The frogs do best when they live in deep-water pools with dense stands of overhanging willows with a fringe of cattails.
San Francisco Bay area (including Marin County). Central coast. Isolated populations in a few other places such as the Sierra Nevada.
The frogs breed from November through March.
Bullfrogs are a big problem.
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.
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.
See What You Can Do to Help Wildlife and Plants (201 KB PDF) for ideas about how to help threatened and endangered species.
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.
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.
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Amphibians & Reptiles
- Alameda Whipsnake
- California Tiger Salamander
- Giant Garter Snake
- California red-legged frog
- San Francisco
- California Brown Pelican
- California Clapper Rail
- California Condor
- California Least Tern
- Least Bell's Vireo
- Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
- California Freshwater Shrimp
- Mission Blue Butterfly
- Valley Elderberry
- Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp
8th Graders and older
- See also our regular species accounts.
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Last updated: November 29, 2017