• Lower Cliff Dwelling

    Tonto

    National Monument Arizona

Couch's Spadefoot

couch's spadefoot toad

Couch's Spadefoot

NPS Photo

Couch's Spadefoot
Scaphiopus couchii

Body length: 2 1/4 - 3 1/2"
Diet: Arthropods, particularly termites

Couch's spadefoots are the original couch potatoes. For most of the year they sit in holes deep underground. Stimulated by the sound of the first summer rains, spadefoots burrow upward and emerge into the wet desert. Hopping to temporary pools created by the rain, the males call loudly to attract females. Over 90% of breeding occurs on that first rainy night.

Following breeding, the eggs and larvae develop quickly, faster than any other American frog or toad. In warm water, eggs hatch within 15 hours. While some frog tadpoles take over a year to develop, spadefoot tadpoles metamorphose into toads in 11 - 12 days, often only hours ahead of the drying pools. Scientists have determined that this remarkable toad is capable of eating enough food in one evening -- up to 55% of its body weight, usually in termites -- to enable it to survive an entire year! The "spade" located on each rear foot is a small knob which helps this species dig more efficiently.

Did You Know?

hillside with wildflowers

Spring can be a very colorful season at Tonto National Monument, but when will the wildflowers bloom? Rain is needed throughout the winter, and warm days are a good indicator of a full bloom ahead. If you miss the peak flowering season, remember that you’ve also missed the peak crowds. More...