Natterjack Toad

Natterjack Toad

In Britain the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) is almost exclusively confined to coastal sand dune systems, coastal grazing marshes and sandy heaths, though a single colony has been found on an upland fell site in Cumbria.

Natterjack toads are often associated with ponds in sand dune slacks, which are often more shallow and warm. Natterjacks require warmer water in which to breed successfully.

Natterjack toads are found on about 60 sites in Britain and occur on a small number of sites in south-west Ireland.

Notable natterjack toad populations exist on the sand dunes along the Merseyside coast, the Cumbrian coast and on the Scottish Solway. The natterjack used to be quite common on the heaths of Surrey and Hampshire and also around the coast of East Anglia but sadly only one or two colonies now remain. Re-introduction programmes have now started to restore the range of this animal.

This rare toad is smaller than the more widespread common toad Bufo bufo. Natterjack toads also exhibit a thin bold yellow stripe down the middle of the back, and have notably shorter legs on which they walk rather than hop. The natterjack gets its common name from the loud rasping call made by the male in spring.

During the breeding season (April – July) males call from the edge of a pond at night in an effort to attract a mate. Spawn is laid in single strings (unlike the double string of the common toad), and similarly, the tadpoles are small and black. They develop quickly and the yellow dorsal stripe is clearly visible on the juvenile natterjack toadlets.

Threatened by habitat loss, the natterjack toad has declined in the last century. As a result, the natterjack toad is strictly protected by British and European law which makes it an offence to kill, injure, capture or disturb them; damage or destroy their habitat; or possess them or sell or trade them in any way. This also applies to larval stages and eggs.

Credit: With thanks to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Charity for providing the photo and information. © ARC Trust.