Natterjack toad-Bufo calamita

Natterjack toads belong to the Bufonidae Family and the Order Anula and placed in the genus Bufo. The only other member of the genus native to Britain  is the common toad Bufo bufo.

The natterjack toad Bufo calamita is a rare species in Britain confined to just a few carefully monitored sites. They live in sandy places such as coastal dunes and lowland heath. In Cumbria populations are surviving in upper salt marshes and upland moor. Their favoured habitat is always open unshaded areas of bare ground where foraging is easy for them.

In Britain the natterjack toad is on the edge of its range. Excluding translocation sites where populations have been recently introduced, they can be found at four natural sites in Scotland and 35 in England.

Natterjacks live for over 10 years , some for 15. They feed on insects, worms and small reptiles, which they hunt at night. 

Natterjack Toad.

Photograph courtesy of UcuchuaBot CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Description of the Natterjack toad..

This tailless amphibian with warty skin has distinct bulges on the back of the head known as parotoid glands. Their body is covered in obvious warts, many of which may be bright yellow or even red. In Britain the dorsal surface is characterised by a yellow stripe along the back. The general colouring may be green or even cream coloured. 

The hind legs have toes that are only half webbed and the legs are shorter than those of the common toad. The front feet are not webbed as this toad spends much of its life on land. they tend to run ,not hop, giving rise to its alternative common name of "running toad" they can move twice as fast as the common toad.

The males  are about 7 cm long the females up to 8 cm. In the breeding season the males have a purplish tinge to the throat. The Males are very vocal during the breeding season. 

Young natterjack toad

Photograph courtesy of Piet Spaans  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.


The vocal sac of the male swells to a considerable size, so much so, that the creature has to raise its front parts as high as it can to allow for this inflation. The result is an extremely loud sound that carries far.

Their specialised habitat requirements are warm sandy soils where it can burrow with ease. They spend most of the day light hours buried in their burrows; They also need warm shallow pools in which to breed.

After mating occurs from April-June, the eggs {spawn} are held together in a single row. The common toad produces double rows of string. Natterjacks have evolved to breed in shallow pools or at the side of shallow water bodies. Shallow pools are apt to dry out during the summer months and this sometimes occurs before the tadpoles have developed into toadlets. This along with natural predation, loss of habitat due to housing and industrial development, agriculture and reduced grazing on heathland, have all contributed to the toads scarcity. Habitat fragmentation leading to genetic isolation of populations and acidification  and loss of breeding pools have also contributed to their burden.

Conservation issues.--Bufo calamita.

The natterjack is a priority species of conservation concern in the UK. as such is subject to a Species Action Plan[SAP} under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The causes of declines [ some mentioned above] have been studied and the SAP is now implementing measures that are designed to halt and eventually reverse the decline.

Indeed part of the SAP is to maintain all existing populations at known or presumed 1995 levels and, where appropriate, restore each population to the size they were in the 1970s.

The species has been subject of conservation action by both statutory and voluntary organisations, notably the British Herpetological  Society for over 20 years. A Species Recovery Plan , funded by Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales was completed in June 1995. This included management , research and translocation to 13 formerly occupied sites. This work has now been taken over by the Herpetological Conservation Trust.

Here in Lancashire { NW England} several shallow pools or scrapes have been constructed and maintained along the Sefton Coast { a strong hold for the species}to provide more suitable breeding pools for the natterjack toads. The habitat that the toad occupies is also protected. Similar action is being undertaken at other sites where the natterjack toad occurs. The following Local Biodiversity Action Plans are working on behalf of Bufo calamita.--

Biodiversity Action Plan {BAP} for Hampshire.

Countdown-the Cheshire region BAP.

Cumbria BAP.

Denbighshire BAP.

Lancashire's BAP

North Merseyside BAP.

Staffordshire BAP.

Suffolk BAP. 


Photograph courtesy of George Gentry USFWS

Natterjack toads and the Law.

The natterjack toad is protected under European Law and British Law. It is illegal to disturb them, or harm this toad, or to damage or destroy its habitat.

The species is listed on Appendix 11 of the Bern Convention and Annex1Va of the E.C. Habitats Directive. It is protected by Schedule 2 of the Conservation Regulations 1994 and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 {as amended}.

Under Schedule5 of the latter Act { The backbone of wildlife protection in England, Wales and Scotland}, it is 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 their larval and egg stages of their lives.

Baby natterjack toad

photograph courtesy of Piet Spaans {CC BY-SA 3.0 License.}

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