Natterjack toad

The Natterjack Toad is small compared to the Common Toad, growing to around 6-7cm in length. Its short legs mean that it rarely hops but rather moves in a distinctive ‘running’ motion. Its body is a brownish green or sometimes cream colour and is covered in warts. It is easily recognised by the yellow stripe which bisects its back.

Bufo pusilus. Note the light band between the ...


This toad is much rarer than other British toads and is mostly confined to sandy coastal regions. It can still be found on a couple of inland sites in Cumbria and Scotland but habitat loss has greatly reduced its range.

 They operate mostly at night, moving across open ground and feeding on beetles, slugs, worms and other small invertebrates. Their short legs, while not good for hopping, are ideal for burrowing in soft sand, where they can hide out in the day or hibernate in the winter. This way they avoid most predators, but if threatened they suck in air and puff themselves up to scare away their attacker.

Their favoured sandy habitat also provides them with a perfect breeding ground from April through to June. Small, warm, transient ponds form in the dunes which allow easy access for the short legged toads, who are not great climbers or swimmers, to lay their spawn which are arranged in single-rowed strings. The pools dry up, stopping any predatory creatures from establishing themselves and thus giving the tadpoles a much better chance of survival. Of course there is the risk that pools may dry out before the tadpoles have fully developed but Natterjacks mate several times during the summer to counteract this.

Male Natterjacks attract a mate by making a load rasping call using the single air sac under their chin. They collect around suitable pools and ‘sing’ together at night until the females arrive. After the spawn is laid, the females depart, leaving the males to look after the young. The spawn develop quickly, usually becoming small toads after around two months, when they leave the water. They won’t be fully grown for another three or four years but can live to around fifteen years.

In The Garden

Natterjack Toads are rarely seen in British gardens, mostly due to their rarity but also because gardens don’t normally provide them with an adequate environment. Most garden ponds are too deep and have too many water bound predators to make them good breeding grounds for this toad. If you do see one of these creatures, it’s important to remember that they are protected in the UK and should be regarded with care and never disturbed.

Did You Know?

  • The Natterjack’s mating call is extremely loud and can be heard up to two kilometres from its source!