Toads are distinguished from frogs by their warty, dry skin (the warts contain poisons to deter predators), and their crawling movements on land. Their spawn is also very different being in long strings. Types of toad in the UK:

(1)THE COMMON TOAD (Bufo bufo)

Colour: Grey- green

About: The Common Toad is widespread throughout the whole of Europe and Asia, abundant everywhere except Ireland, it will be found in woods, fields, gardens, and any dark moist areas. Most of their time is spent in damp places under rocks and logs. A nocturnal animal it eats insects, worms, molluscs and occasionally small amphibians. It hibernates over-winter in small dry holes and under logs and stones.

Breeding: Goes to water in spring, after mating the female lays 2 strings of 1000 - 6000 eggs underwater which are entwined around aquatic plants by both parents. Tadpoles hatch in about 12 days and metamorphose after a further 70 - 90 days, the young then leave the water. They grow slowly becoming adult in about 5 years, with a life span of up to 40 years.

Size: Females up to 130mm, males up to 80mm.

(2) NATTERJACK TOAD (Bufo calamita)

Colour: Green-yellow and warty with a yellow stripe down their back. Underside off white. Female takes on bluish tinge to throat in breeding season.

About: The Natterjack are now one of the rarest native anurian species with only a few localised colonies existing in the UK spending the majority of their time out of water. Natterjacks are easily distinguished from the common toad Bufo bufo by the yellow stripe which runs down the centre of its back, but other obvious features include its generally smaller size, horizontally aligned pupil and lighter skin colour. The Natterjack also differs from the common toad in that it only occurs across a rather narrow range of heathland, coastal sand dune and saltmarsh habitats.

Breeding: From April to September in water, female lays up to 4,000 eggs. It requires very shallow pools in which to lay its spawn, thereby avoiding competition from common toads and predation by fish or invertebrates. Although Natterjacks breed quite late in the spring to lessen the effects of predators and competitors, this strategy does mean that tadpoles have to develop quickly before their ponds dry up. For the rest of the year, Natterjacks are less dependent on water and inhabit burrows in the ground, emerging at night to hunt for invertebrates amongst short vegetation.

Size: Female 100mm, male 80mm.

The Natterjack toad has undergone a marked decline during the last 100 years and became extinct at the last of its north Wales coast sites during the 1960s. Habitat destruction and deterioration have been the major factors behind its decline, with the development of the north Wales coast for tourism and housing accounting for the loss of most of its Welsh sites. Natterjack ToadAlthough covered by an action plan, the Natterjack toad has already been the focus of a great deal of conservation effort and research over the past 20 years. The British Herpetological Society has been at the forefront of much of this work, whilst English Nature and CCW have funded a recently completed Species Recovery Programme for the toad. As part of this work, Natterjacks were re-introduced to one former north Wales site, and further releases may take place in the future. The action plan builds on this work by setting further targets for the future.

Toad Spawn

Toad spawn is quite distinct from frog spawn, it is laid in long strings usually wrapped around plant.


(mostly taken from the BBC 'watch out' website)

Loitering Males: Males outnumber females so competition to find a mate runs high and the males tend to set off for the ponds a few days ahead of the awakening females. They then loiter behind grass tussocks and mossy logs to intercept a potential mate. As a female approaches, the male launches himself and grabs her in a limpet-like embrace, climbing on her back (amplexus) ready to jockey-ride for the rest of the journey.

The grasp is maintained by the nuptial pads and by the muscular forearms. In their eagerness to pair and ride to the pond, males sometimes make an identity error, amorously grasping another passing male. They only realise their mistake when croaks of objection are uttered.

Croaking Toads: During the migration, the males croak continuously, uttering their staccato, high-pitched call in an attempt to attract a mate. This croak improves with age and size, acting as a deterrent to would be competitors. The Natterjack toad has an external vocal sac which, when fully expanded, is several times larger than its head. A single male usually starts the chorus off, but all surrounding males instantly respond filling the night air with raucous trilling calls - the Natterjack being one of Europe's noisiest amphibians.

SpringWatch Toads: If you want to observe toads it is always a good idea to contact your local Wildlife Trust office. They will advise you on the best place to see toads in your area, and whether your presence is likely to disrupt activities.


Despite being weak and lethargic through lack of food, newly emerged toads are surprisingly single minded in their desire to reach water, crawling and climbing over any obstacles in their path. They sometimes travel distances of over 4.2 km and may take several days, moving mostly at night to reach their destination.

Toad Kill: When mating instincts are running high, nothing stops the toads trying to reach their spawning sites, and the increasing number of busy roads crossing the countryside are just one more obstacle to overcome.

However they really are a very dangerous obstacle, as each year many of thousands of toads are quite literally stopped in their tracks and killed.

You can help reduce the road toll in your area by joining a toad patrol which helps the animals across busy roads, either by carrying them or providing tunnels.


Froglife (website)

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