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What Is a Common Toad?

Cynde Gregory
Cynde Gregory

The common toad, also known as the European toad or scientifically as bufo bufo, has been hauling around something of a bad reputation since the Middle Ages, when it was associated with witchcraft. This probably had something to do with the toad’s ability to poison most things that try to eat it by secreting an icky goo called bufagin from its skin. Naturally, this quickly taught most predators to back slowly away from the toads and find something else to munch, which allowed the toads to propagate wildly over most of Europe and parts of Africa. No doubt, this led to them being perceived as common.

The common toad is a night-loving beast who loves to congregate on full-moon nights pondside during breeding season, although the rest of the time, it would rather be alone. If they can manage to keep an eye out for hedgehogs or grass snakes that aren’t the slightest bit bugged by their toxic, sticky skins, common toads can live a grand old life, making it to four decades. Considering that each female can produce approximately 4,000 eggs per lay, that’s a lot of hoppers.


If a toad can be said to be pretty, the common toad isn’t it. Their warty skins come in a wide range of colors from orange brown to icky green. This is a result of their biological ability to blend. The coloration has everything to do with the color of the soil where a particular frog resides.

It’s hard to run to the corner market in Britain, Wales, or Scotland without running into, or even running over, a common toad. In fact, with so few predators, so many eggs, and such long lives, this toad’s main cause of death is being squished beneath the wheel. Interestingly, they avoid northern Ireland as well as Iceland and some Mediterranean islands, although the why isn’t clear.

This toad’s idea of a buffet includes spiders, garden slugs, and larvae as well as the insects that produce them. As "eat or be eaten" is their motto, bigger common toads sometimes slurp up baby grass snakes that, if allowed to grow to adulthood, might eat them. Even mice belong on the dinner plate as far as the toad is concerned. In typical reptilian fashion, these toads feel the need to shed from time to time and devour their own sloughed skins.

Those who live in colder climes will hibernate by digging down into the dirt or squirming under thick roots or deeply embedded stones. They are also partial to drainpipes and can even manage to winter over in pond mud, although being toads and not frogs, most prefer drier environments. March is wake-up time, and as for most living creatures, in spring, their thoughts turn to lust as breeding season begins.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a common toad and where can it be found?

The common toad, also known as Bufo bufo, is a widespread amphibian native to Europe, northwest Africa, and parts of Asia. It thrives in a variety of habitats, including forests, gardens, and meadows. These adaptable creatures are often found in damp environments but migrate to breeding waters in spring.

How can you identify a common toad?

Common toads are characterized by their warty skin, which is usually brown or olive green, and their distinctive, swollen parotoid glands behind the eyes. They have a squat body and short legs, which make them more adept at crawling than hopping. Their eyes have a horizontal pupil, adding to their unique appearance.

What do common toads eat?

Common toads are carnivorous and consume a diet primarily consisting of invertebrates. They are nocturnal hunters, feeding on insects, spiders, slugs, and worms. Their sticky tongues are adept at catching prey, and they will even eat small mammals and amphibians if the opportunity arises.

How do common toads reproduce?

Common toads engage in a breeding migration each spring, returning to the water where they were born. Males compete for females, often forming a 'mating ball' around one female. Fertilization is external; females lay long strings of eggs, which males fertilize. Tadpoles emerge and eventually metamorphose into toadlets.

Are common toads endangered?

Common toads are not currently classified as endangered; however, their populations are declining in some areas due to habitat loss, pollution, and disease. Conservation efforts are important to monitor and protect these amphibians, as they are indicators of environmental health and play a role in controlling insect populations.

What is the lifespan of a common toad?

Common toads have a relatively long lifespan for amphibians, with some individuals living up to 10-12 years in the wild. In captivity, with optimal conditions, they can live even longer, sometimes exceeding 15 years. Their survival is aided by their ability to enter a state of torpor during cold or dry periods.

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