common frog

Info & advice

Newts: behaviour

What should newts be doing in winter?

Quick answer
Newts spend the winter tucked away sheltering from the very coldest weather.

Further information
As the weather turns colder, newts start to look for somewhere to overwinter. This could be in a compost heap, under some paving slabs or in the muddy banks of a pond – somewhere that keeps free of frost. Like all our native amphibians, they don’t hibernate as such and may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage. For this reason, if you accidentally disturb a newt during the winter it shouldn’t be harmed.


What should newts be doing in spring?

Quick answer
Gathering at ponds to breed – look for them at night with a torch.

Further information
Spring is the time when amphibians head towards a pond to breed. Newts breed a little later in the year than frogs and toads.

The best way to look for newts is to shine a torch in your pond on mild evenings. Male newts perform a courtship dance and the female lays individual eggs which she carefully wraps in the leaves of pond plants to protect them.

Adult newts may spend longer in the pond than other amphibians as they feed on frogspawn and tadpoles.


What should newts be doing in summer?

Quick answer
Baby newts will be leaving the water whilst adults will spend much of their time on land.

Further information
Depending on when the eggs were laid, tiny baby newts will leave the pond sometime during the summer. Once the larvae have absorbed their feathery gills they’ll take their first steps on land as efts.

At this time of year adults will spend much of their time away from the pond, though are still likely to be found in damp habitats, especially if its very hot.


What should newts be doing in autumn?

Quick answer
Preparing for winter.

Further information
Autumn is a fairly quiet time for amphibians. All juvenile newts should have left the pond by now so you may not see any around the water at all. As the weather gradually turns colder newts will be feeding up on insects, slugs and spiders in preparation for winter.

If you still notice newt larvae in the water late in the season then they could be suffering from delayed development. This is nothing to worry about, they will stay in the pond over the winter and develop next spring.

Later in the autumn amphibians look for places to spend the winter, such as log piles, compost heaps and rockeries.


I have disturbed a newt that was hibernation, will it be ok?

Quick answer
It should be fine. Return it to where you found it or a similar habitat.

Further information
Amphibians lie dormant during the coldest months but take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage. For this reason if you do disturb an animal in winter, it should be unharmed if covered up and left undisturbed.

If you are unable to put the animal back where you found it, place it somewhere that offers protection from frost and predators like cats and birds, for example log piles, under a shed or within your compost heap; it should not be somewhere ‘warm’, just a place that keeps free of frost.


Newt are preying on tadpoles, should I stop them?

Quick answer
No. Newts are a natural predator of tadpoles and it’s best not to interfere – it’s likely a ‘boom-bust’ relationship will establish.

Further information
Garden ponds are often home to more than one species of amphibian; this is a healthy situation and indicates the pond is functioning well. There is no need to remove newts or other natural tadpole predators. Amphibians lay large numbers of eggs because the chances of them surviving these numerous predators are so slim. This adaptation means that they form a vital part of foodchains.

Tadpoles can be an important food source for newts particularly in the weeks following frog-spawning when adult newts are in the pond laying their eggs, but we would advise that newts should not be removed. By relocating the newts to another pond you could be accidentally transferring invasive plants and diseases, as well as leaving the way open for more newts to enter the pond. If you have great crested newts in the pond then you could also be unintentionally breaking the law by handling a protected species without a license.

In most cases where newt predation takes place, some tadpoles will survive to become froglets. A ‘boom-bust’ relationship often forms between frogs and newts – with larger numbers of newts leading to fewer frogs, then fewer frogs leading to fewer newts, leading to more frogs in following years (and so on). Other tadpole predators also exist in ponds, including water boatmen, diving beetles and dragonfly larvae – it would be impossible to remove them all! In some situations newts can dominate and if this happens it’s just a case of learning to love newts instead! Your pond may become a ‘newt pond’ but it’s likely near by there will be a ‘frog pond’ where the frogs are thriving.

Adding places within the pond for tadpoles to hide could help increase their chances of survival. Potential hiding places include rocks, pebbles or aquatic planters.

great crested newt
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