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A Guide to California's
Reptiles and Amphibians




Sounds of
Sonoran Desert Toad -Incilius alvarius

(Girard, 1859)

(= Bufo alvarius)
Click the speaker icon to listen to an mp3 sound file.





sonoran desert toad


sonoran desert toad habitat
Breeding habitat, Pima County, Arizona

sonoran desert toad habitat
Breeding habitat, Pima County, Arizona

sonoran desert toad
Adult in breeding pool, Pima County, Arizona
Male frogs and toads sometimes make a variety of sounds. These calls can have different functions.


Advertisement Calls

The advertisement call is the most well-known call of a frog or toad. It is made by a male during the breeding season to establish his territory and repel rival males and to attract females as potential mates. Males usually make the call in or near bodies of water near areas that are attractive to a female as a good place to lay her eggs. Advertisement calls can be heard during the evening and at night, and often during daylight at the peak of the breeding season. Sometimes an advertisement call will be heard outside of the breeding season and away from water. The reason for this is not understood.

Each species has its own unique advertisement call. This is necessary to differentiate them when there is more than one species calling. The evolution of this specific male advertisement call and its recognition by females is considered to be an important isolating mechanism in the evolution of a species.


The call of the Sonoran Desert Toad is a weak, low-pitched whistling screech, 1/2 - 1 second in duration that cannot be heard as far away as many frogs and toads. Calls are made at night around standing water, following summer rains. Choruses are small, with few toads calling.

Sound Sound
This is a 3 second recording of two advertisement calls of a distant Sonoran Desert Toad. Great Plains Toads and insects are heard in the foreground. The duration between calls has been shortened.


This is a 53 second unedited recording of the advertisement calls of a distant group of Sonoran Desert Toads, made at night in Pima County, Arizona. One toad can be heard in the foreground with more in the background. A cacophony of Great Plains Toads and insects is heard in the foreground.



Release or Encounter Calls



A chuckling release call is also made, often when two breeding males come into contact. See the video below to hear it.

(I watched an adult male Couch's Spadefoot at the edge of a breeding pool climb on the back of a Sonoran Desert Toad several times his size until the toad made a chuckling sound and the spadefoot quickly jumped off.)

Waveform and Sonogram
Sound sonogram
This is a recording of one repetition of the advertisement call of a male Colorado Desert toad calling at night in Pima County, Arizona. A large group of Great Plains Toads can be heard in the background.

The image on the right is a visual representation of this call, along with Great Plains toads.

Click on it to see a larger image.

Click here for information about how to read the waveform and sonogram images.
Short Video
sonoran desert toad  
Sonoran Desert Toads in a rain pool at night in Arizona, including an interaction between two toads where one makes a release call. Lowland Burrowing Treefrogs and Couch's Spadefoots are calling loudly in the background, which might be why these weak-voiced toads were not calling, only waiting around on the banks and in the water for females to come.



You can listen to more recordings of Sonoran Desert Toads on this cd:

Carlos Davidson - Frog and Toad Calls of the Pacific Coast - Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

cd cover

and on the cd that comes with this book:

Lang Elliott, Carl Gerhardt, and Carlos Davidson - The Frogs and Toads of North America - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

book cover

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