Frogs & toads: identification
How do I tell the difference between frogs and toads?
Frogs have smooth, moist skin and long, stripy legs and are likely to be found in damp habitats in the garden. Toads have warty skin, golden eyes and prefer to crawl rather than hop; if threatened a toad can puff itself up to appear bigger. Toads can tolerate drier habitats than frogs and spend less time in water.
What species of frog/toad have I seen?
The Common Frog is the amphibian most likely to be found in your garden; they are widespread and found in a variety of habitats, including urban gardens. Common frogs are noticeable for their long jumps after being disturbed, their smooth skin and patch behind the eye. They tend to be green or brown (although can be cream, orange, red or black) and often have random black blotches.
The Pool Frog became extinct in the UK but has since been reintroduced to a single site in East Anglia. It differs from the Common Frog by often having a yellow stripe down the back, being generally darker in colour and having a slightly pointier face. (Photo: Tibor Sos)
The Common Toad is also widespread. They tend to crawl rather than making frog-like leaps and have rough, warty skin, golden eyes and two distinctive lumps behind the eyes (called parotoid glands). When disturbed, toads tend to remain still.
The Natterjack Toad is rare and only found in sand dunes, sandy heath and coastal grazing marshes. They’re smaller than Common Toads, often have a thin stripe down the back and have shorter legs which they use for short bursts of running; they also have a very loud call. (Photo: Matt Wilson)
I’ve seen an unusually coloured frog/toad, is it ill or something exotic?
Odd-coloured amphibians usually turn out to be healthy, native species that simply have unusual colouring.
The UK’s amphibians are much more variable in their colouration than is often thought. This can sometimes make identification difficult but does mean that whatever you’ve seen is likely to be a healthy, native species rather than anything that’s ill or exotic. For example, we often think of Common Frogs as being a shade of green or brown but individuals can also be yellow, orange, red, cream or even black. Male Common Frogs can develop a blue tinge to their throats in spring, and females can appear more pink/red.
Occasionally, a red colouring can be a sign of disease, but usually only when coupled with other symptoms. If the animal appears to have similar features to ‘ordinary’ frogs/toads then it is most likely this is a common species that is an unusual colour.