Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
The common toad is one of the UK’s most charismatic animals and for many of us it is one of our earliest wildlife memories.
It is a widespread amphibian found throughout Britain though is absent from Ireland. Common Toads prefer deeper water bodies in which to breed, including fish ponds, farm ponds, reservoirs or village ponds. They have rough, ‘warty’ skin and tend to crawl rather than hop. Common Toads produce a toxin from a pair of glands on their back which makes them distasteful to would-be predators.
|Identification||Adult males grow up to 8 cm in length, adult females are larger with reports of up to 13 cm in length. Generally brown or olive-brown but may be darker. Belly usually pale with dark speckles. Skin is ‘warty’ and relatively dry. Oval, horizontal pupil. Many individuals have a golden iris. Tend to crawl rather than hop. Call: high-pitched, rough “qwark-qwark-qwark”.|
|Distribution||Native to the UK. Found throughout Britain but absent from Ireland. Large European range but absent from many islands. Widespread in the UK but numbers thought to be declining rapidly.|
|Ecology||Produce a toxin from their skin, which makes them distasteful to predators. Prefer deep water bodies for breeding. Optimal terrestrial habitats include woodland, scrub and coarse grasslands. Largely nocturnal. Long jelly-like strings of spawn. Strings contain a double row of eggs. Tadpoles look similar to Common Frog tadpoles but can be distinguished by their shorter tail and bulkier head. They remain uniformly dark in colour throughout development. Feed on a variety of invertebrates and even small vertebrates.|
|Predators and other threats||Threatened by a loss of breeding ponds and disruption of migration routes. Signs that predators such as otters or other small carnivores have preyed on toads include finding toad skins in or around a pond, where the predators have removed the toxic part of the toad.|
A year in the life…Spring
Adult toads emerge from their overwintering sites in late spring and start migrating towards the pond on mild, damp evenings; toads tend to return to ancestral breeding ponds along the same routes each year (and are at risk of being killed on roads, find out more here). Males wait near to the pond and ‘piggy back’ on females as they make their way. Breeding is usually a little later than Common Frogs; females lay strings of spawn (eggs) wrapped around vegetation. Depending on local weather conditions, two to four weeks later tadpoles will hatch out. The tadpoles are black and may form shoals. After around 16 weeks the tadpoles start to grow back legs, followed by front legs.
When they have fully absorbed their tails the tadpoles leave the water as tiny toadlets, usually after rain. Adult toads spend little time in water and can tolerate much drier conditions than frogs. They may remain in one area for long periods over the summer months, hunting for slugs, spiders and insects at night.
Autumn is spent preparing to see out the winter. Some adults make a return migration to overwintering areas.
Toadlets and adults spend the winter buried down in mud, under compost heaps or amongst dead wood. They do not hibernate as such and may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage.
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