Ornate Frog Fact File

Hildebrandtia ornata

Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild Unknown

Captive Unknown




Conservation Status


Least Concern

The ornate frog is named for the intricate pattern of stripes and blotches which run across their body with the back primarily being green.

These animals are a native of Africa. Their preferred habitat is rare and as such their distribution is rather patchy.

Ornate frogs remain underground and tend to only emerge at night to feed or during the breeding season when males gather at a waterhole and call to attract a female.

They are threatened by collection for the pet trade and food but they remain considered common.

Read on to learn more about these amazing amphibians.


What does the ornate frog look like?

Ornate frogs are medium sized with a plump body. Their body is covered by folded, warty skin.

Their name comes from the intricate pattern across their body. Across the back they are bright green with black blotches across it. Along the sides of the snout and through the eyes they have dark broken bands.

On the throat are a pair of Y-shaped marks.

The feet of the ornate frog are slightly webbed to assist when swimming.

An adult ornate frog measures an average of 7cm (2.75in) long. Males and females are similar in size.


What does the ornate frog eat?

The ornate frog is a carnivore and will feed on a range of invertebrates and small amphibians.


Where can you find the ornate frog?

Africa is the native home of the ornate frog. Here they can be found in the following countries - Angola; Benin; Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Côte d'Ivoire; Eswatini; Gambia; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Senegal; South Africa; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.

While no records exist it is believed that they would occur in Burkina Faso; Chad; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Niger; South Sudan and Sudan.


What kind of environment does the ornate frog live in?

Ornate frogs are found in savanna, shrubland and wetland tending to appear in more arid areas. They are absent from areas of forest and rocky areas within their habitat.

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How does the ornate frog produce its young?

Breeding takes place at the beginning of the rainy season.

Ornate frogs are considered explosive breeders producing large numbers of young when temporary water courses and small mud holes fill to allow for this.

Males will call at the edge of the water with the aim of attracting a female. She will deposit her eggs singly and the male then fertilizes them.

Young begin life in their larval form as a tadpole in the water. Growth is fast. The tadpoles match the color of the bottom of the water course they inhabit. This helps them to avoid predation. This color may be beige, brown or olive.

During the larva stage this species is cannibalistic and will feed on other tadpoles.


What does the ornate frog do with its day?

These animals burrow underground and only emerge during the breeding season. This allows them to avoid the heat in their range.

Ornate Frog

Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the ornate frog?

A population trend for this species has not been determined but it is considered common across the areas where it is is found. The populations are patchily distributed as their preferred habitat is rare.

Small numbers are captured for sale in to the pet trade but this is not believed to represent a major threat. They are also used for food and in traditional medicines in parts of their range.

They are considered adaptable to some changes in their habitat.

Quick facts

These animals may also be known as the African ornate frog, southern ornate frog, common ornate frog, Budgett's burrowing frog or Hildebrandt's burrowing frog.

Their genus name, Hildebrandtia is in honor of Johann Maria Hildebrandt, a German botanist and explorer.

Their species name comes from the Latin, 'ornata' which means decorated and references their highly patterned skin.


Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2013. Hildebrandtia ornataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T58296A3068268. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T58296A3068268.en. Downloaded on 19 September 2021.

Gbif.org. 2021. Hildebrandtia ornata (Peters, 1878). [online] Available at: <https://www.gbif.org/species/5218012> [Accessed 19 September 2021].

AmphibiaWeb 2002 Hildebrandtia ornata: Ornate frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4708> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 19, 2021.

Mindat. 2021. Hildebrandtia ornata. [online] Available at: <https://www.mindat.org/taxon-5218012.html> [Accessed 19 September 2021].

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