Amphibians and Reptiles

Great Crested Newt

male showing belly Matt Wilson spring11
Great Crested Newt belly pattern (Matt Wilson)
male on mud jules howard
Male Great Crested Newt on land (Jules Howard)
Great Crested Newt larvae developing (Francesca Barker)
Gcn larvae walker Fb Aug 08 (4)
Great Crested Newt eft/newtlet (Francesca Barker)
gcn larvae underwater, Dave Kilbey
Great Crested Newt eft/tadpole (Dave Kilbey)
Great Crested Newt eft/tadpole (Vanessa Barber)
36- GCN eggs Sivi Sivanesan
Great Crested Newt egg (Sivi Sivanesan)
10 - GCN female Dave Kilbey
Female Great Crested Newt (Dave Kilbey)
100- GCN male Dave Kilbey
Male Great Crested Newt (Dave Kilbey)
male showing belly Matt Wilson spring11 male on mud jules howard OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Gcn larvae walker Fb Aug 08 (4) gcn larvae underwater, Dave Kilbey 29 36- GCN eggs Sivi Sivanesan 10 - GCN female Dave Kilbey 100- GCN male Dave Kilbey


Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)


Great Crested Newts are widely distributed throughout Britain but this distribution is extremely patchy; they’re absent from Ireland and have disappeared from many sites across Europe. They are the largest of our native newt species. During the breeding season males develop a jagged crest which has a break at the base of the tail and females take on a ‘bulky’ appearance.

Identification Adults up to 15 cm in length.  Skin is black or dark brown and has a rough, ‘warty’ appearance.Underside is bright orange with irregular black blotches.Males have a crest along their backs which is more pronounced during the breeding season.Males have a white flash on the tail and females a yellow/orange one.

‘Warts’ along the side of the body may have white tips.

Largest newt species in the UK.

Distribution Native to the UK.  Widespread but patchy distribution in the UK.  Absent from Ireland.Found throughout northern and central Europe.Populations have disappeared from many sites across Europe due to habitat loss and intensification of farming practises.
Ecology Favour large ponds with abundant weeds and no fish.  Active at night, spending the day at the bottom of ponds or in vegetation.Feed mainly on invertebrates and tadpoles.White with light yellow centre eggs surrounded by a jelly capsule around 4.5-6 mm across. Single eggs are folded inside leaves of aquatic plants.Larvae have a filament at the tail tip and black blotches over the body, tail and crest.  Larger than all other newt species encountered in the UK, reaching a length of 50 – 90mm before metamorphosis. May be hard to tell apart from other newt species when they are less than 20 mm in length.
Predators and other threats Eaten by foxes, badgers, rats, hedgehogs and birds.  Threatened by habitat loss and the intensification of farming practises.


A year in the life…Spring

Adult newts emerge from their overwintering sites in spring (March/April) and head to a pond to breed. Males perform an elaborate courtship dance before the eggs are laid. Females lay individual eggs on plant leaves and carefully wrap them up to protect them. Depending on local weather conditions, two to four weeks later larvae (sometimes called newt tadpoles) will hatch out. The larvae have feathery gills around the head, distinguishing them from frog and toad tadpoles; they have a mottled appearance and a tiny filament at the end of the tail. A couple of months after they hatch the larvae start to grow their front legs (again, different from frogs and toads), followed by the back legs. At this time of year adult newts will hang around in and around the pond and will hunt frog tadpoles.


When the larvae have fully absorbed their gills  they leave the water as newtlets (or efts), around August.


Autumn is spent preparing for winter. Newts feed on various invertebrates.


Great Crested Newts spend the winter sheltering under rocks, in compost heaps or buried down in mud. They don’t hibernate as such, and may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage.


N.B. Great Crested Newts have full legal protection under UK law making it an offence to kill, injure, capture, disturb or sell them, or to damage or destroy their habitats.  This applies to all life-stages.

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