Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita)
In Britain, the Natterjack Toad is confined to coastal sand dune systems, coastal grazing marshes and sandy heaths; they’re often associated with shallow, warm ponds in sand dune slacks as they require warmer water in which to breed successfully. Natterjack Toads are found on about 60 sites in Britain and occur on a small number of sites in south-west Ireland. Notable populations exist on the sand dunes along the Merseyside coast and on the Scottish Solway; in Cumbria, there are notable populations on the coast and a single colony on an upland fell site. The Natterjack used to be quite common on the Surrey and Hampshire heaths and also around the coast of East Anglia but sadly only one or two colonies now remain. Re-introduction programmes have now started to boost populations and restore the range of this once widespread amphibian. Natterjack Toads have shorter legs than Common Toads and are quite quick on land – being known to run rather than walk or hop – but they are poor swimmers.
|Identification||Adults up to 8 cm in length. Green, brown or cream. Dark ‘warts’ on their backs often with yellow or red tips. Obvious pale cream/yellow stripe along back. Green iris with oval, horizontal pupil.
Short legs. Run rather than walk or hop. Poor swimmers.
Call: a loud rasping rolling croak ‘errr…errr…errr’. Can be heard from up to 2km away on quiet nights.
|Distribution||Native to the UK. Very rare in the UK: confined to just a handful of sites. Common across Western Europe.|
|Ecology||Found in coastal sand dune systems, coastal marshes and sandy heaths. Breed in warm, shallow water. Active at night. Feed on moths, woodlice and other invertebrates. Long jelly-like strings of spawn similar to the common toad, however, eggs are in single rather than double rows.|
|Predators and other threats||Threatened by the loss of coastal habitat.|
A year in the life…Spring
Adults emerge during March/April and breeding takes place from April onwards. Males wait by the edge of the pond making loud rasping noises – this is where the Natterjack toad gets its name from. Females lay single strings of spawn (rather than double strings like the common toad).
Breeding can continue into early summer. Natterjack tadpoles are slightly smaller than common toad tadpoles and have a grey spot on the throat. The yellow stripe becomes obvious as the tadpoles start growing legs.
Adults and newly metamorphosed toadlets spend the autumn preparing for winter.
Natterjack Toads spend the winter sheltering from the very coldest weather – buried down in mud, under logs and rocks, etc.
N.B. Natterjack Toads 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.