Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans)
The Midwife Toad is known to be established in the Bedfordshire area. They’re usually identified by their distinctive call which is a clear, high-pitched staccato whistle, often described as an ‘electronic bleeping’ sound (much like a smoke alarm running on a low battery!). The tadpoles are relatively large (up to 6 or 7cm long) compared to the adults, which are small (up to 5cm long) and grey. Adult male Midwife Toads can be seen carrying eggs wrapped around their back legs, which is where the name comes from.
|Identification||Adults up to 5cm in length. Usually grey in colour, often with small black, brown, olive or green spots. White belly. Chest and throat often spotted with grey. Reddish ‘warts’ often descend from the head to the hind legs.
Call: distinctive. Clear, high-pitched staccato whistle. Often described as an ‘electronic bleeping’ sound.
|Distribution||Non-native species. Populations known in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Worksop and South Devon. Native to Western Europe.|
|Ecology||Prefer to breed in small ponds. Predominantly active at night. Relatively large tadpoles (6-7 cm in length). Adult males wrap strings of eggs around their hind limbs immediately after fertilization (hence the name ‘Midwife Toad’) and carry them until they are ready to hatch, at which time they are deposited in a suitable pool. Tadpoles stay in these pools over winter and metamorphose in spring. Tadpole growth rate is rapid to increase their chance of survival over winter months.|
|Predators and other threats||In their natural range, Midwife Toads are preyed upon by some fish species such as salmon, as well as herons and crows, Grass Snakes and predatory aquatic invertebrates. In the UK, crows, herons, Grass Snakes and some fish will eat them, with diving beetles and dragonflies preying on the tadpoles.
In their native habitats, they are threatened by general habitat loss, largely to agricultural development (including loss of breeding sites), fragmentation of populations, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis, and predation by introduced fish species. They are classified as being of Least Concern on the IUCN website, but thought to be declining.
N.B. The release of exotic species into the wild is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.