Nature conservation

Threatened species

Painted Burrowing Frog - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Neobatrachus pictus
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 08 Aug 1997
Profile last updated: 01 Dec 2017


The Painted Burrowing Frog (also called the Mallee Spadefoot Toad) is a large burrowing frog, 46 to 58 mm in length. Head and body is grey, light brown or yellow with dark brown or olive green patches and a thin, light yellowish vertebral stripe. The underside of the body is smooth and white. The eye is particularly prominent and has a vertical pupil and the tympanum (eardrum) is not visible. Limbs are short. Fingers are cylindrical and unwebbed, whereas the toes are fully webbed, with a black shovel-shaped lump on the undersurface, used for burrowing. Animals are distinguished from the more widespread Common Spadefoot Toad/Sudell’s Frog (N. sudelli) by the lack of baggy skin around the groin, although identification is difficult and is best confirmed by chromosomal analysis. The call is a long and musical trill.


This species is widespread in south eastern South Australia and western Victoria but has been found at only two locations in NSW. These are Scotia Sanctuary, adjacent to the South Australian border and in an area to the west of Pooncarie. To date, less than 30 individuals have been found in NSW, though this number is possibly an under-estimation based on the difficulty of identification and also limited access to suitable habitat following rainfall events when the animals are active.

Habitat and ecology

  • Animals can occur in open grassland, mallee, woodland, farmland and cleared areas and are usually found in or around flooded areas after periods of heavy rainfall, including grassy marshes, lagoons, flooded claypans, temporary roadside pools, ditches, mallee swales and farm dams.
  • Animals burrow beneath the soil surface during periods of water shortage and emerge only after heavy rains to breed.
  • They most likely use leaf litter, fallen logs and ground cover vegetation as shelter whilst above ground.
  • Breeding can occur in summer, autumn or winter and males call whilst floating in still water.
  • Diet is not well known but probably consists of a wide variety of invertebrates. Tadpoles are also suspected to feed on large dead insects and plant matter.

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Darling Riverine PlainsGreat Darling Anabranch Predicted None
Darling Riverine PlainsPooncarie-Darling Known None
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
Other StateSA Known None