Species Guide: The Common Toad

How do I identify one?

Common toads (Bufo bufo) are noticeably larger than our native frogs. Toads have drier-looking skin than frogs, and their skin is characterised by a rough covering of warts, ridges and bumps. Toads are usually brown or olive-coloured, and their eyes are often golden or copper in colour.  Toads’ eggs are usually laid as a string of single eggs, in contrast to frogspawn, which is found in clusters. Frogs have much longer legs than toads. Look at the animal’s movement – if it hops, it’s probably a frog, whereas toads usually ‘walk’!

Where do they live?
Common toads are widespread and are found throughout the UK, but not in Ireland. They like large, deep bodies of water – but they are also able to tolerate living considerably further away from water, in drier locations, compared to frogs.  They breed in lakes and large ponds, and sometimes canals.

How can I encourage them?
Make a pile of dead leaves, a log pile, or a compost heap in your garden. This will provide a useful place for toads to hide and shelter. Of course, having a pond in your garden will attract a whole host of wildlife species, including toads.

Where can I spot one?
If you have a garden pond, you may encounter one, but they also can be found far away from water, sheltering under cover. We once found one sitting quietly beneath a heap of autumn leaves. In the breeding season (during March and April), in the daytime, they can be seen hanging around vegetation in the shallows of lakes or large ponds. But night is when toads are most active, especially in breeding season. You’ll have a better chance of spotting one if you head out with a torch, once night has fallen.

Toad trivia:
During the Middle Ages, the common toad was associated with witches, black magic, and even the devil. Despite the superstitions of old, toads are often held in high regard by gardeners. This is thanks to toads’ habit of eating slugs, snails and caterpillars – thereby (unwittingly!) helping protect garden plants.

Tell us if you find a common toad where you live!