Is it a toad or a frog? How can you tell
Many people get confused between frogs and toads, so here are a few key differences:
- Toads have dry warty skin and shorter legs than frogs
- Toads crawl and frogs move in short jumps.
- Frogs have a more angular head and shape compared to toads
- Only frogs have a dark patch behind their eye
- Frogs lay their spawn in a clump, whilst toads lay a long string of spawn.
Common Toad or Natterjack Toad?
There are distinctive differences between the two species:
- Adult female toads grow to 13cm, whilst Natterjacks rarely exceed 9cm
- Common toads have striking coppery eyes, whilst Natterjacks have distinctive yellow-green eyes, veined with black.
- Natterjacks often move by rapid walking or running
- Natterjacks have a central yellow stripe running lengthwise down the body with speckled orange/red markings.
- Common toads have of-white underside with darker flecks than the Natterjacks grey speckles.
Where do toads live?
Common toads are found all over Britain, and spend more time on dry land than frogs and may remain in one area all summer. The Natterjack has a very restricted range and is only found at a few coastal dune, saltmarsh and inland heath sites in Britain.
By mid-October, most toads and toadlets have retreated to dry banks, holes used by small mammals, compost heaps, amongst dead wood, under garden buildings and other places offering shelter. They will stay in these sites through the winter, but may take advantage of mild patches of weather to forage.
Where do toads breed?
In the spring, males are usually the first to emerge from their over-wintering sites and make their way to their breeding ponds. Toads have a phenomenal homing instinct and will travel through all sorts of obstacles to reach the breeding site.
Some female toads will arrive at the breeding pond carrying a mate, but others arrive alone and are quickly swamped by the waiting males and at times when there is a shortage of females, one female may be swamped by a number of males, creating a ‘toad ball’. This scenario is often fatal to the female toad, who is drowned in the furore.
Toad eggs are encased in jelly and laid over a 24hr period in a string around submerged weeds. A string of up to 7mtrs in length can contain over 4000 eggs.
After 14 days the jelly disintegrates and the tadpoles swim free, and continue to develop in the pond for up to 85 days. They will leave the pond when they no longer have tails, usually after rain.
What do toads eat?
Toads have huge appetites and have always been considered the gardener’s friend. They will pretty much swallow and living animal that they can manage, which includes caterpillars, beetles, slugs, spiders, snails, woodlice, ants, and even larger prey like newts, young frogs and even small mice.
Toads can become very tame and friendly and as such can be offered titbits such as live mealworms. With regular feeding they can even be encouraged to come to you when called!
What predators do toads have?
The toad has a defence mechanism against many predators where it secrets a foul tasting toxin from its skin glands as a white milk when threatened. This substance is highly unpleasant to any predator that trys to mouth a toad, but some predators are not deterred. Hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats and corvids such as crows and magpies are on the list of predators. Dogs are frequent killers of toads, but pay the price by discovering that toads don’t taste too good, sadly at the expense of this valuable amphibian.
Threats to British Toads
The main threats to toads in the UK are the loss of breeding ponds and disruption of migration routes. Road building and development have created many obstacles for toads travelling to their breeding sites, as well as the loss of these ponds as a result of house building and other developments.
How to help toads in your garden
If you have a garden you can help toads in the following ways:
Install a wildlife pond with a minimum depth of 2ft and with sloping sides so that breeding toads can get in and out easily.
- Create wood and stone piles near ponds to offer toads refuge.
- Avoid keeping tadpoles in small containers which can kill them – watch them in the pond instead, where they will be much safer and you can enjoy their development.
- Never move toads from one area to another – this can spread disease and the new site may not be ready for the toads – if you provide the right habitats for them, they will come when they are ready!
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