The Natterjack toad is a small toad with adults reaching 60 – 70mm in length. They have a distinctive yellow line down the middle of the back, and have a tendency to run rather than walk or hop.
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Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita formerly Bufo calamita)
Natterjack toads are found mainly in the Northwest of England with other colonies in East Anglia, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Staffordshire. They prefer places with light sandy soils and warm shallow ponds, often close to the coast. Sand dunes, salt marshes and lowland heathland are preferred habitat types.
Its former latin name was Bufo calamita which means ‘running toad’. Natterjack toads get their common name from the loud call made by the male at night during the breeding season (April – July).
They prefer habitats with sandy soils because the ponds which naturally form there tend to be shallow, and shallow ponds have warmer water, which they need in order to breed. The tadpoles are small and black and quickly develop the distinctive yellow stripe down the dorsal line.
During warm weather adult toads shelter in burrows emerging at night to feed on moths, woodlice and other insects, they have also been known to eat sandhoppers and other marine invertebrates.
During the winter Natterjack toads hibernate in burrows which are usually dug by the toad although they have been known to use the burrows of other animals.
The Natterjack toad has never been widespread in the UK. The loss of many suitable heathland and sand dune habitats, and the drying up of ponds has contributed to their decline. They are now fully protected under UK and European legislation.
Most UK sites are now protected with some as nature reserves. The toads are the subject of a Biodiversity Species Action Plan. English Nature’s Species Recovery Program has focused on maintaining suitable ponds and also constructing new ones. Re-introduction programs have also been started in an effort to conserve the species.