Plains Spadefoot Video Portrait

Violent thunderstorms rumbled across central Missouri on May 11 & 12 (2010), dousing the enormous plowed fields in the floodplain of the Missouri River not far south of Columbia.

On the night of the 12th, with yet another storm threatening, we drove the muddy floodplain roads, listening for something “different,” and soon homed-in on a large group of Plains Spadefoots (Spea bombifrons), the males giving their gagging snores from a shallow pool next to the road. We waded into the muddy crucible and were amazed at how lively the calling males were, throwing their entire being into each utterance as if it were the most important thing in their lives (which it is!):

placeholder image for Plains Spadefoot video portrait

Ranging throughout the prairie states, this population of Plains Spadefoots is near the eastern edge of the range—the species extends down the Missouri River valley all the way to Illinois. As with nearly all species of spadefoots, breeding occurs suddenly and “explosively” after huge rains and is completely over within a couple of days.

Plains Spadefoot range map

I videotaped the singing males and my assistant Beth Bannister did the sound recordings. She had to lean-in close with the microphone in order to overcome the deafening trills of a huge chorus of Gray Treefrogs. Listen also for the calls of Boreal Chorus Frogs and Woodhouse’s Toads in the background.


  1. Amazing! It sure does look like they’re using all their effort to call. It looks like they’re calling in a river. I didn’t know there’s some in Illinois.

  2. Looks and sounds great. Note that those are gray treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) and not Cope’s grays in the background (as in your written description). Also boreal chorus frogs can be heard in the background. Hope you’re getting some great material in KY.


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