Nature conservation

Threatened species

Giant 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: Heleioporus australiacus
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Profile last updated: 22 Mar 2024


The Giant Burrowing Frog is a large, rotund, slow-moving frog that grows to about 10 cm long. It is a powerfully built species with muscular hind limbs and enlarged tubercles on the feet well suited to burrowing. Adult males have enlarged forearms, with a large conical black spine and several small spines on their first finger. Females have reduced arm-musculature compared to males. Colouration tends to vary from a steely blue grey to black on the limbs and upper body but paler on the sides. The belly is white sometimes with a varying wash of bluish grey or brown. The body surface is granular to the touch and adorned with numerous warts. Along the flanks some of the warts are creamy white to canary yellow. It has prominent, large eyes with a vertically elliptical pupil and silvery iris. Males call from within or adjacent to breeding sites with a low pitched and plaintiff owl-like oop oop oop oop in rapid succession. Tadpoles are large (up to 75 mm) and very dark blue to black. The blue/grey ventral surface of the tadpoles allows them to be readily distinguished from tadpoles of other species by an experienced observer.


The Giant Burrowing Frog is distributed in south eastern NSW and Victoria, and appears to exist as two distinct populations: a northern population largely confined to the sandstone geology of the Sydney Basin and extending as far south as Ulladulla, and a southern population occurring from north of Narooma through to Walhalla, Victoria.

Habitat and ecology

  • Found in heath, woodland and open dry sclerophyll forest on a variety of soil types except those that are clay based.
  • Spends more than 95% of its time in non-breeding habitat in areas up to 300 m from breeding sites. Whilst in non-breeding habitat it burrows below the soil surface or in the leaf litter. Individual frogs occupy a series of burrow sites, some of which are used repeatedly. The home ranges of both sexes appear to be non-overlapping suggesting exclusivity of non-breeding habitat. Home ranges are approximately 0.04 ha in size.
  • Individuals move into the breeding site either immediately before or following heavy rain and occupy these sites for up to 10 days. Most individuals will not attempt to breed every year.
  • The Giant Burrowing Frog has a generalist diet and studies to date indicate that they eat mainly invertebrates including ants, beetles, cockroaches, spiders, centipedes and scorpions.
  • When breeding, frogs will call from open spaces, under vegetation or rocks or from within burrows in the creek bank. Males show strong territoriality at breeding sites. This species breeds mainly in autumn, but has been recorded calling throughout the year. Egg masses are foamy with an average of approximately 500-800 eggs and are laid in burrows or under vegetation in small pools. After rains, tadpoles are washed into larger pools where they complete their development in ponds or ponded areas of the creekline. Tadpole development ranges from around 12 weeks duration to up to 12 months with late developing tadpoles overwintering and completing development when warmer temperatures return.
  • Breeding habitat of this species is generally soaks or pools within first or second order streams. They are also commonly recorded from 'hanging swamp' seepage lines and where small pools form from the collected water.
  • This frog is a slow growing and long-lived species, living up to 10 years of age, possibly longer.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Predicted None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern HighlandsBungonia Known None
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Predicted None
South Eastern HighlandsCrookwell Known None
South Eastern HighlandsKanangra Predicted None
South Eastern HighlandsKybeyan-Gourock Known None
South Eastern HighlandsMonaro Known None
Sydney BasinBurragorang Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinEttrema Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinKerrabee Known None
Sydney BasinMoss Vale Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWollemi Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None