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  1. 204 Photo by Beth Mantle

Desert Tree Frog

Litoria rubella


  • Colour: it is fawn, grey or brown above with a pinkish hue, flecked with black or gold markings.  A darker strip runs down the side of the head, through the eye and along the side of the body.  It is white, cream or yellowish below usually with a lemon-yellow groin.  It changes colour in dry conditions becoming white to prevent it from over heating in direct sunlight.
  • Tadpoles: uniformly brown and can be up to 5 cm long.
  • Distinctive feature: dark stripe from its eye along the side of its body. Also, its horizontal pupil and large discs on the tips of its fingers and toes.
  • Size: males 2.8 – 3.7 cm; females 3.3 – 4.3 cm.


  • Call: a loud, harsh vibrant screech.  A chorus can sound like seagulls.
  • Diet: it forages mostly on the ground at night for flies, beetles, ants, termites and other arthropods.
  • Movement: this ground dwelling and climbing frog is often found clinging to windows in summer, with its internal organs visible through its translucent skin.
  • Breeding: breeding males congregate on the ground or in trees and shrubs beside still or slow moving water. They breed at any time of year in the north, as long as water is present.  In other areas they breed after summer rains.  Females lay clusters of 40-300 eggs (about 1 mm in diameter) in a thin film on the surface of still water.  Tadpoles metamorphose into young frogs within 14 (in warmer regions) - 40 days.  The froglets leave the water before they lose their tails.

What to Observe

  • Calling

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

They may start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them. Since breeding is linked to rainfall, increases in rainfall in north-west Australia may lead to increased numbers.

When To Look

  • Listen at any time in the north (as long as water is present) or after summer rains in the south of its range.

Where To Look

  • In most habitats from wet coastal forests to arid areas in the central deserts across the northern two thirds of Australia.  In arid areas, Litoria rubella is confined to the ranges, permanent watercourses or human dwellings.

Desert Tree Frog Occurrence Map ALA


The map below displays the accumulated observations of these species as reported by ClimateWatch observers, together with the layer showing how the range of the species might change between now and 2085, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, and green areas where the species range might expand.


Cronin L 2009. Cronin’s key guide to Australian reptiles and frogs. Jacana Books.

Tyler MJ and Doughty P 2009. Field Guide to Frogs of Western Australia. Western Australian Museum.

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  1. What Else?

    • Species of Uperolia and Pseudophryne lack the large discs on the end of the toes.
    • From all other Litoria species, except two, it can be distinguished by its shorter legs, with the tibia (the part of the leg between the ankle and the knee) being less than 1/3 of the body length. It is more than 1/3 of body length in most other Litoria species.
    • From Litoria dentata and Litoria electrica, the other two Litoria species with equally short legs, it can be distinguished by its plain back lacking either a broad, dark stripe along the middle of the back (dentata) or distinct dark markings on the back (electrica).Furthermore, Litoria dentata is restricted to north-east New south Wales and south-east Queensland and Litoria electrica is restricted to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
  1. Did You Know?

    Rubella means red, in reference to its colour.

    It is sometimes nicknamed the "dunny frog", in reference to where it is commonly found.