Spea bombifrons
(Cope 1863)

spē-ŭh — bäm-bĭ'-fräns

An adult female Plains Spadefoot from Wallace County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult male Plains Spadefoot chorusing in Pratt County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult Plains Spadefoot from Scott County. © Kurt Meier.
An adult female Plains Spadefoot from Morton County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult female Plains Spadefoot from Logan County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A tadpole of Spea bombifrons. Image © Altig et al. (2006).
A tadpole of spea bombifrons. Image © Altig et al. (2006).

Length in Kansas up to 2.5 inches. They have a pattern or irregular (sometimes striped) greenish to brown blotches on their head, back, and limbs against a light gray to tan background. The back may be covered with small red to yellow tipped warts. Their bellies are white and unspotted. The pupils appear vertically slit in bright light and there is a hard bump or ‘boss’ between the eyes on the top of their head.
Adults normally 38-50 mm (1½-2 inches) in SVL; largest Kansas specimen: male (KU 20012) from Barber County with SVL of 64 mm (2½ inches) collected by Claude W. Hibbard on 29 August 1935; this is the maximum length throughout the range (Conant and Collins, 1998).

The Plains Spadefoot is found in western Kansas to the edge of the Flint Hills, and east along the floodplain of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. It is seldom encountered except when chorusing or moving (often across roads) during rainy weather. It prefers areas with sandy loose soil.

Locality Dot Map:
The brown shaded areas () show the boundaries of properties in public or institutional ownership that contain ecological resources that merit some level of protection (KBS file).
(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record). Export Google Earth (.kml)
Open icons indicate questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,679 Total Records 
  • 1,453 Museum Vouchers 
  • 226 Other Observations 
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences): Some occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map.
Atchison (2); Barber (44); Barton (32); Cheyenne (19); Clark (10); Clay (1); Cloud (2); Comanche (22); Cowley (4); Decatur (5); Dickinson (1); Doniphan (1); Douglas (206); Edwards (3); Ellis (116); Ellsworth (1); Finney (68); Ford (3); Geary (2); Gove (1); Graham (17); Grant (4); Gray (10); Greeley (4); Hamilton (6); Harper (15); Harvey (3); Haskell (1); Hodgeman (1); Jefferson (24); Jewell (3); Johnson (4); Kearney (12); Kingman (24); Kiowa (1); Lane (4); Leavenworth (2); Logan (24); Marion (1); Marshall (5); McPherson (15); Meade (77); Mitchell (7); Morton (144); Ness (27); Norton (1); Osborne (5); Ottawa (1); Pawnee (19); Phillips (10); Pottawatomie (15); Pratt (16); Rawlins (1); Reno (65); Rice (9); Riley (32); Rooks (5); Rush (158); Russell (2); Saline (4); Scott (30); Sedgwick (2); Seward (24); Shawnee (1); Sheridan (1); Sherman (53); Stafford (70); Stanton (4); Stevens (7); Sumner (5); Thomas (119); Trego (14); Unknown (1); Wabaunsee (1); Wallace (16); Washington (3); Wichita (2); Wyandotte (4);

Natural History:
They are explosive breeders. Following heavy warm mid-Spring rains, the males of this species will leave their burrows and congregate around smaller water-filled depression to commence chorusing. Females arrive shortly thereafter, and their eggs are laid and fertilized by the males. Each female will lay her 2,000+ eggs in 10 to 15 masses attached to vegetation. The time from egg to the development of a young froglet varies with the environmental conditions of the pool (temperature, dissolved oxygen, and competition), but transformations are known to occur in as little as one week. Tadpoles, typically eat vegetation in the pools, but as conditions become crowded as the pool slowly dries, the larger individuals will turn cannibalistic.

Occurrence Activity:

Audio recording by Keith Coleman.

Chorusing Phenology: The black dots illustrate the actual Julian date (day of the year; 1 January = 1 to 31 December = 365) observations were made. The thin red line depicts the range of dates between the beginning of the first, and end of the fourth quartile (excluding outliers; Tukey method). The thick light blue bar represents the second and third quartile (interquartile range; the middle 50% of all observations). Only one observation per Julian date is included in the graphs; so a date with multiple observations carries the same weight as a date with only one observation. The vertical bars correspond to the 12 months of the year; January through December.
# Unique Obervations: 165; Range: 27 Mar to 14 Aug; Interquartile range: 10 May to 27 Jun;

Plains Spadefoots are active on humid nights, and during such times, they are often readily encountered on roads through suitable habitat, from April into September.

1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1932 Kellogg, Remington. Notes on the spadefoot of the Western Plains (Scaphiopus hammondii). Copeia 1932(1):36
1933 Smith, Hobart M. The Amphibians of Kansas Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 383pp.
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1975 Rundquist, Eric M. First KHS field trip yields three county records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (7):1-3
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1987 Irwin, K. J. and J. T. Collins Amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne Bottoms. Cheyenne Bottoms: an environmental assessment Kansas Biological Survey and the Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence. pp.
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Fitzgerald, Eve and Charles Nilon Classification of habitats for endangered and threatened species in Wyandotte County, Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 98pp.
1995 Moriarty, Emily C. and Joseph T. Collins. First known occurrence of amphibian species in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):28-30
1997 Taggart, Travis W. Status of Bufo debilis (Anura: Bufonidae) in Kansas Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (109):7-12
2001 Kretzer, Justin E. and Jack F. Cully, Jr. Effects of Blacktailed Prairie Dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist 46(2):171-177
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2006 Altig, Ronald, Roy W. McDiarmid, Kimberly A. Nichols, and Paul C. Ustach Tadpoles of the United States and Canada: A Tutorial and Key Electronic files accessible at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA. ():
2006 Frost, D., T. Grant, J. Faivovich, R. Bain, A. Haas, C. Haddad, R. De Sá, A. Channing, M. Wilkinson, S. Donnellan, C. Raxworthy, J. Campbell, B. Blotto, P. Moler, R. C. Drewes, R. Nussbaum, J. Lynch, D. Green & W. Wheeler The amphibian tree of life Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (297):370
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
Account Last Updated:
6/27/2018 11:14:13 AM

Travis W. Taggart © 2019 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University