A stout, toadlike amphibian with big, protruding eyes, vertically elliptical pupils, short legs, and large feet. There is no raised area between the eyes. Overall color is light brown to yellow brown. Head, back, and upperparts of legs are mottled with dark brown. The amount of dark brown on the back may be great enough to form 2 or 3 light yellow-brown stripes in a pattern resembling a lyre. The belly is pale white to gray. The inner surface of each hind foot has a sickle-shaped spur or “spade.” Call is a quick series of coarse “wank, wank, wank” or “errrah, errrah, errrah” sounds repeated every few seconds. Some say it sounds like a young crow.
Similar species: The plains spadefoot, which occurs in counties along the Missouri River, is distinguished by the presence of a boss (a raised area) betwen the eyes and by having a wedge-shaped spade at the base of each hind foot.