Natterjack Toad

The Natterjack toad is a beloved frog species native to many European countries. It has a distinctive yellow dorsal stripe that allows it to stand out from similar frog species that occur in the same areas. Natterjack toad prefer warm soil habitats and have a loud mating call to attract mates. 

Closeup of a Natterjack Toad
Common NameNatterjack Toad 
Other NameNone 
Scientific NameEpidalea calamita 
LocationsEurope
Ranges from Portugal to Denmark
to Sweden and Ukraine
CharacteristicsProminent parotoid glands behind eyes, horizontal pupil
ColorGray or olive colored back
Light colored belly
Dark spots throughout Yellow dorsal stripe
OriginSouthern, western, northern Europe 
Conservation StatusLeast Concern 
FamilyBufonidae
GenusEpidalea
SpeciesE. calamita 
PoisonousYes
Max Length3 inches (8cm) 
Max Weight19 grams 
Lifespan15 years

Natterjack Toads Enjoy Soil Warmth

Natterjack toads are a little different from what I think of when I imagine frogs, but exactly what I think of when I imagine toads.

They do not occupy aquatic habitats, but instead large, open, and unshaded regions.

The most important thing about this species is, they like it warm. 

Natterjack Toad enjoying the warmth of a sand dune

Natterjack toads will find sand, gravel, and soils of coastal dunes and semi-desert regions and forest glades.

They are big sticklers on their substrate, since they build burrows in it mainly for hibernation.

These have to be in warm regions, since they are ectotherms and rely on obtaining heat from their environment. 

These toads are often found in human-occupied areas, such as gardens, parks, and agricultural fields.

They can be found in quarries even more, though.

Sand and rock quarries, where the substrate is overturned and loose, seems to be very popular among populations. 

Hibernation, Breeding, and Reproduction 

Natterjack toads typically hibernate starting in late October and emerging from their burrows in the spring, around April.

They emerge into the breeding season, which lasts from April to July.

Males will form breeding choruses, where they call to females in groups during the nighttime. 

Natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) in Spring in Noordoostpolder, Netherlands

Females will deposit their eggs in shallow pools, to make sure they are warmed by the sun and environment.

They can deposit 2800 to 4000 eggs at one time! Eggs are deposited in two strings, a very interesting characteristic of this species. 

Natterjack Toads Can be Loud Neighbors 

During breeding season, male calls can be heard from a mile away to attract a female.

Since the males gather in groups to call to females, it can get pretty loud.

Watch this YouTube video for a better sense of what they sound like! 

Natterjack Toad Chorus

They are actually named for their calls.

Their previous scientific name (Bufo calamita) named them for their running behavior.

Their current name (Epidalea calamita) names them for their rasping call. 

Short Legs for Big Running Capability 

The natterjack toad does not have long legs, they have relatively short legs in comparison to other species.

Because of this, they do not jump or hop like many other frogs and toads do.

Instead, they run. 

They run after prey, which they aggressively chase and capture with their long, sticky tongues.

I for one would love to see a toad running. So, I YouTubed it! 

Running Natterjack toad

Population Threats and Listings 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Natterjack toad as least concern, however, their wild populations seem to be decreasing.

The country of Czechia has them listed as critically endangered.

European Law has made it illegal to tamper with or kill this species.

While doing my research on this species, I believe that Europe is very fond of this toad species.

The United Kingdom implemented a successful reintroduction program for Natterjack toads in the early 2000’s.

Reintroduction programs consist of captive rearing species (breeding them in human care) and releasing them into the wild in great numbers. 

Threats to these wild populations mainly come from natural and anthropogenic environmental changes.

This is natural encroachment of their specialized dune habitats by changing with the climate.

Expansion of agricultural lands, filling of temporary breeding ponds, and mining and quarrying also affect population numbers. 

How to Find a Natterjack Toad in the Wild 

  • Step one: Search for them during their breeding season, between April through July. 
  • Step two: Be in western, southern, or northern Europe. In countries like Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, and Poland. 
  • Step three: Go searching at night. These frogs are nocturnal, so your best chances of finding them are at night. 
  • Step four: Listen for their loud calls. They will be especially loud during their breeding season when calling for mates in choruses! 

Fun Facts About Natterjack Toads! 

  • They are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night to hunt and search for prey. 
  • Speaking of prey, these frogs are known to aggressively chase whatever prey they find!
     
  • Their diet consists of invertebrates, insects such as ants, worms, and beetles!
  • This species was formerly named Bufo calamita. It meant the “running toad”. 
  • The Natterjack Toad is the only frog species native to Ireland! 

Sources

AmphibiaWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibiaweb.org

ARC_Bytes. (n.d.). Natterjack toad. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Retrieved from https://www.arc-trust.org/natterjack-toad 

Bhattacharya, D. (2021, May 26). Natterjack toad – facts, habitat, diet and pictures. Animal Spot. Retrieved from https://www.animalspot.net/natterjack-toad.html#Diet 

IUCN. 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org.

Natterjack toad. The Wildlife Trusts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/amphibians/natterjack-toad