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Amphibian Identification Guide

The DEC Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University are working together to conserve forests, woodland pools, and the wildlife that depend on these critical habitats. This guide is designed to help volunteers of the Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings project identify species they observe during spring migrations, when many salamanders and frogs move from forest habitat to woodland pools for breeding. For more information about the project or to download a data form, visit the Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings webpage.

Download a four-page, printable version of the identification guide (PDF, 1.4MB). Laminated copies are helpful references on rainy migrations nights!

Spotted salamander
spotted salamander* (Ambystoma maculatum)

Total length 5.0-8.0 in. Black to dark gray body with two rows of yellow spots. Widespread distribution in the Hudson Valley. Photo by Laura Heady

Jefferson/blue-spotted salamander complex
Jefferson/blue-spotted salamander complex* (Ambystoma jeffersonianum x laterale)

Total length 3.0-7.5 in. Brown to grayish black with blue-silver flecking. Less common. Note: Hybridization between Jefferson and blue-spotted salamander has created variable appearances and individuals may have features of both species. Because even experts have difficulty distinguishing these two species in the field, we consider any sightings to be the 'complex.' Photo by Jim Clayton

Marbled salamander
marbled salamander* (Ambystoma opacum)

Total length 3.5-5.0 in. Black or grayish-black body with white or gray crossbars along length of body. Stout body with wide head. Less common. (Breeds in the fall.) Photo by Chris Bowser

Eastern newt
eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)

Total length 1.5-3.0 in. Terrestrial "red eft" stage is bright orange-red to olive-orange with two rows of reddish spots with black borders. Efts are similar to northern spring and red salamanders but much smaller with dry, rough skin. Very common. Photo by Laura Heady

Redback salamanderLeadback Salamander
northern redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

Total length 2.5-4.0 in. Slender, dark gray body with red-orange stripe along back and tail (photo on left). "Leadback" phase (photo on right) is lacking red stripe and may appear similar to Jefferson/blue-spotted salamander complex, but is significantly smaller. Four-toed salamander may also appear similar in general size and color. Very common. Photo by Brian Houser (redback phase), Elizabeth Janes (leadback phase)

Four-toed salamanderthe belly of a four-toed salamander is white with black spots
four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)

Total length 2.0-3.5 in. Small body with reddish-brown back flecked with dark spots. White belly with black spots. Four toes on each hind foot. Distinct constriction at the base of the tail. Redback salamander may appear similar in general color and size but lacks spotted belly. Less common. Photo by Laura Heady, Amy Bloomfield (spotted belly)

Northern slimy salamander
northern slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)

Total length 4.5-7.0 in. Large, dark-gray to black body with variable amounts of small white or silver flecks and round, robust tail. Excretes very sticky secretions when disturbed or handled. Fairly common. Photo by Amy Bloomfield

Wood frog
wood frog* (Lithobates sylvatica)

Total length 1.5-3.0 in. Light tan to brown body with dark "raccoon" mask across eyes and bright white upper lip line. Distinct ridges (dorsolateral folds) along both sides of back. Darker wood frogs may appear similar to darker green frogs. Very common. Photo by Charlie West

Gray treefrog
gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

Total length 1.5-2.0 in. Light green to gray body with rough skin and dark blotches on back. Yellow inner thighs. Light spot with dark edge beneath eyes. Large toe pads. Common. Photo by Mark Fitzsimmons

Northern spring peeper
northern spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

Total length 0.5-1.5 in. Small body with smooth skin that is usually light brown but may be gray or olive. Dark "X" on its back and pale undersides. May have yellow inner thighs. Small toe pads. Very common. Photo by Ray Sussman

Green frog
green frog (Lithobates clamitans)

Total length 2.5-3.5 in. Variable coloration. Usually green to bronze body, often with dark mottling. Ridges extend from the eye to two-thirds along both sides of back. Bullfrog may appear similar but lacks ridges along back. Darker wood frogs may also appear similar. Very common. Photo by Laura Heady

bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana)

Total length 3.5-6.0 in. Very large body with variable coloration; often dull green with dark mottling and skin folds curving from eye downward around the rear of the tympanum (disc-shaped ear drum behind eye). Green frog may appear similar. Very common. Photo by Cara Lee

American toad
eastern American toad (Bufo americanus)

Total length 2.0-3.5 in. Stout, rough-skinned toad with variable coloration. Usually light brown to reddish brown, with 1-2 warts per dark spot on its back (but overall more warty throughout its back) and dark speckles on white belly. May be confused with Fowler's toad. Very common. Photo by Amy Bloomfield

Fowler's toad
Fowler's toad (Bufo fowleri)

Total length 2.0-3.0 in. Stout, rough-skinned toad with variable coloration. Usually gray or greenish with 3-7 warts per dark spot on its back. May be confused with American toad but lacks spots on belly (and paratoid glands are in contact with cranial crests, whereas they usually are not on American toads - see inset). Less common. Photo from

Pickerel frog
pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris)

Total length 2.0-3.0 in. Tan body with dark rectangular spots and distinct ridges (dorsolateral folds) along both sides of back. Inner thighs are bright yellow. Similar to northern leopard frog, which has rounder spots and no yellow coloration inside hind legs. Common. Photo by Laura Heady

Northern Leopard frog
northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens)

Total length 2.0-3.5 in. Green to light brown, elongate body with rows of dark roundish spots with light borders and distinct ridges along both sides of back. Similar to pickerel frog, which has more rectangular-shaped spots and is never green. Less common. Photo from

*woodland pool breeding species.

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