Snakes of Durban- a photographic guide
The purpose of this photographic guide, covering the species found in the Greater Durban Area, is to help you identify the frogs you may see in your garden or in a local nature reserve. The region is home to a high diversity of amazing frogs, so I encourage you to get out, explore, and admire them. Appreciate the wonderful wildlife around us!
For more details on frogging evenings and frog conservation, please scroll to the bottom of the page for details.
Natal Cascade Frog (Hadromoprhyne natalensis)
This perculiar-looking and large frog perches on rocks in waterfalls/cascades (hence the name), often in the water running over them. Their tadpoles have the most amazing ability, in that they can cling onto rocks even in fast-flowing water, and even manoeuvre up them. They look like little leeches!
Kloof Frog (Natalobatrachus bonebergi)
This Endangered species is mostly found in the Upper Highway Area of Durban. It occurs in swamps and slow-moving streams, in closed-canopy forests and gorges. It has a very soft and subtle call, sounding a bit like a dripping tap. I have spent a great deal of time surveying areas for this species, and we’ve been lucky enough to find new localities- good news for the frogs! If you have a photo of this species in your garden, or in a local reserve, please could you email it to me with some details to firstname.lastname@example.org, to assist us with our survey work.
One way to detect if Kloof Frogs are in your local stream, is to look out for their fairly noticeable, jelly-like egg clump. They lay these egg clumps on leaves, branches and rocks, overhanging the water.
Natal Tree Frog (Leptopelis natalensis)
A favourite amongst many people, this adorable and distinctive frog’s ‘yack yack’ call is often heard in suburban gardens.
Some individuals are an exquisite shade of green.
“The Reed Frogs”
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus)
This is a very common species, which can make itself at home in garden ponds, or neglected swimming pools! Their piercing, high-pitched and short whistling call, is rather loud to say the least. As you’ll see below, you can see why they get the name ‘Painted’, they are beautifully coloured frogs!
Immature specimens are a rather drab shade of brown, which can confuse people who are trying to identify them. Note that band on the side of their head.
Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli)
This species is probably the most famous species in the country, its the celebrity frog! It is one of the few Critically Endangered species in the country, and it only occurs in coastal wetlands in KwaZulu-Natal. They tend to live in dense reed beds, and with their cricket-like chirp, they can be quite tricky to locate.
As a general rule of thumb, light green specimens are assumed to be females (right). The brown ones with a stripe on each side of the body (left), are males.
Tinker Reed Frog (Hyperolius tuberilinguis)
A usually bright green frog, with an even brighter shade of orange in-between its back legs. This flash colouration aids in escaping danger. The frog will leap away from the threat, exposing the orange in-between the back legs. When it lands (generally on green foliage), it tucks its legs in and lies dead still. This throws the predator off. It is larger than the other common, green reed frog, the Waterlily Reed Frog. Emits a knocking-like call.
Immature specimens are light brown in colour, much like in the Painted Reed Frogs. However, Tinkers are a little larger, and have that distinctive stripe going over their snout and eye.
Argus Reed Frog (Hyperolius argus)
This beautiful and large reed frog is generally found in the more northern parts of the Greater Durban Area (from Durban North towards Ballito). Their call sounds a bit like two pebbles being hit together
Unlike what’s the case in many animals, in the Argus’s case, the females (left) tend to be the prettiest ones (no offence ladies, but that’s how it seems to be in nature!). Males (right) are often green or brown, with a stripe running down each side of the body.
Waterlily Reed Frog (Hyperolius pusillis)
This tiny little frog can be seen calling on floating vegetation. They call constantly, making them sound like an insect.
Yellow-striped Reed Frog (Hyperolius semidiscus)
This stunning species occurs in the Upper Highway Area, where the similar-looking Argus Reed Frog does not, thus avoiding confusion.
Delicate Leaf-folding Frog (Afrixalus delicatus)
This looks very much like the Natal Leaf-folder, mentioned above, minus the ‘freckles’.
Natal Leaf-folding Frog (Afrixalus spinifrons)
In the Durban Area, this is the rarest Leaf-folder. They look very similar to the Delicate Leaf-folder, but this species has got clear ‘freckles’ on its snout. It is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
Greater Leaf-folding Frog (Afrixalus fornasinii)
This is the most common species in this genus, and it’s the largest. Many people describe their call to be machine gun-like, and if you hear it, you’ll probably agree (nowhere nearly as loud as a gun though!). Some individuals may have bold black and white bands, making them look spectacular. A characteristic of the Leaf-folders, is they tend to have what appears to be grainy skin (spines).
“The chubby chaps”
Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog (Hemisus guttatus)
Along with the Natal Tree Frog, this cutie is a favourite amongst many frog enthusiasts, and you can see why? A big, purple/brown blob, with yellow spots and tiny legs. Bizarre! That hardened,pointed snout, and its powerful back legs, allow this frog to dig down into the sand with ease. It spends most of the year underground, only emerging after good rains. This species is listed as Vulnerable. Should you see this species in your garden, or in a local reserve, please email me a photo at email@example.com. Your record would only be shared with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the EWT.
Bushveld Rain Frog (Breviceps adspersus)
Rain frogs just look old and grumpy, yet ever so cute at the same time. Just look at that face?! Like the Shovel-nosed Frog, this species spends most of its time underground. I don’t need to explain when it becomes active.
Plaintive Rain Frog (Breviceps verrucosus)
Another grumpy-looking fellow, this species is generally found in the Upper Highway Area (from Kloof further inland). Looks like a chunky raisin, well, sort of.
Bushsqueaker (Arthroleptis wahlbergii)
Even if you aren’t a keen ‘frogger’, you’ll recognise this call immediately once its played for you. High pitched whistling, which can be heard during rainy days in the warmer months. In fact, they’ll call even when it’s overcast! They blend in with the leaf-litter well. The one pictured below is a little more orange than normal, they’re usually brown or grey, with an hour glass marking on their back. Note the black band on the face.
Bubbling Kassina (Kassina senegalensis)
This has one of the coolest-sounding calls of any frog. It sounds like a bubble bursting! They were previously known as the Senegal Running Frog, as they do tend to ‘run/walk’ rather than hop.
Bronze Caco (Cacosternum nanum)
Along with the Tree Frog, Guttural Toad and Bushsqueaker, these are the first species to call in the season, once the first early rain has fallen (they start up in August, whereas most frogs wake up in September onwards). It produces a short squeaking sound, insect-like in tone. They’re tiny frogs, around two centimeters in length.
Snoring Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus natalensis)
There’s no need to explain where this frog gets its name from, especially after you’ve heard its call! It looks like a miniature toad, except more moist in appearance, with a more pointed snout. A very common and widespread species.
Common River Frog (Amietia quecketti)
This is indeed a very common frog in the area, which is not only found alongside rivers and streams. They’re a common visitor to ponds too. Their jumping ability may surprise you, although if you look at its large back legs, the lengths at which they leap at might not be a surprise. This goes for the Stream and especially the Grass Frogs too. There is colour variation amongst this species, and some individuals are bright green. The colour of the stripe is quite variable too. They let off a loud croak, following by a rattle.
Striped Stream Frog (Strongylopus fasciatus)
A pretty frog which blends in well amongst the grass.
Clicking Stream Frog (Strongylopus grayii)
Telling these apart from the Common River Frog can be tricky. You learn to distinguish the two once you’ve seen enough of both species. So practice! The calls are very different, and this frog gets its name from its loud clicking call.
Sharp-nosed Grass Frog (Ptychadena oxyrhynchus)
This champion jumper lacks the dorsal stripe that the River and Clicking Stream Frog have. It has twin vocal sacs (one on each side), as you’ll see if you look carefully in the pic. They give off a loud, shrieking call.
Common Platanna (Xenopus laevis)
This has got to be the strangest looking frog around. Freshwater fisherman take one look at this frog, and say “Bass bait!”. This frog lives in water, although it will hop across land to another pond during rains. It is a ferocious predator, waiting for small insects, fish and tadpoles to drop or swim in front of it. It will then snatch them up and shove the prey into its mouth, using it’s ‘hands’. A bit like me with pizza.
Guttural Toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis)
This big chap is often labelled as a “Bullfrog”, and is not welcomed by most people, because of its constant croaking during the night (in the warmer months). Toads have a characteristically ‘warty skin’, with a large gland behind each eye, which contains a white toxin that is released if grabbed by a predator. One usually does not get this on the hands, however, these big frogs tend to pee on you, to say “Let go of me!”. So washing your hands after touching this species is advisable.
FYI, Bullfrogs do not occur in the Greater Durban Area.
Red Toad (Schismaderma carens)
This toad falls into its own separate genus, as unlike the other toads, it lacks the toxic paratoid gland behind the eyes. They are not always as red as the one pictured below. If you scroll further down, there is another photo of this species showing the colour variation. It’s loud, groaning call can make people chuckle.
Mating toads. A pic to show the colour variation amongst the species.
One of the best way to spend an evening, in Spring and Summer, is to go frogging! We often run frogging evenings, at reserves/farms/parks, where we take people to admire some of our many beautiful frog species. Did you know amphibians are the fastest disappearing groups of vertebrates (animals with a backbone) in the world? They’re also one of the most important animals in the food chain!
So, get your gum boots on, grab a torch (rain coat and camera too if you want) and come join us for a fun evening looking at our amazing amphibian friends!
For details of upcoming events, follow our Facebook page:
To learn more about frogs:
Download the eFrogs app, which is a guide to the frogs of South Africa. It contains many photos of each species, videos, and possibly the most useful tool on it- it has all the calls!
There are two field guides out on frogs of Southern Africa, which contain CD’s with the frog calls, by Louis DuPreez and Vincent Carruthers. You’ll find them in Exclusive Books or on online stores.