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Toad Species

Last Updated: 2/21/14

American Toads - Bufo americanus
Common Toads - Bufo woodhousei
Marine Toads - Bufo marinus
Western Toads - Bufo boreas

American Toad

The American toad is the color of dirt with "warts" and generally blends in well with dirt and rocks. They are very common in the Eastern and mid-USA. Males grow to about 2 inches and females to about 4 inches. Bufo americanus loves to visit ponds in the late spring and early summer to lay a trillion eggs. Eggs can be laid from January to July depending on the location. They normally spawn in April in Zone 7 here in Maryland. American toads are often the first of the frogs and toads to breed in ponds, along with the spring peepers. Eggs are attached in long strings around plants. Each double string of long spiral jelly eggs contains an average 6000 eggs (someone told me that it is really 2000 but it does not really matter; it is a lot!)!! The large female and active male can stay joined for hours and submerge for long periods of time to avoid predators. During the night, males give off very loud trills (like brrrrrrrrrrrr but very high) to attract females but they tend to clasp together throughout the following day once he succeeds in attracting a mate. The eggs hatch in 4 to 11 days or so.

Like their parents, the tadpoles are distasteful and slightly poisonous. Adult toads can inflate their bodies to make them hard to eat as well as produce secretions that taste bad. Fish and other predators avoid eating tadpoles but a few animals will eat toads and tadpoles. Hognose snakes (the Eastern puff adder for one), ducks, raccoons, and skunks may eat toads while predaceous diving beetles, some fish, newts, birds, and larger tadpoles may eat toad tadpoles. There are supposedly cases where fish (goldfish) did eat toad tadpoles and died but I have yet to see such a thing in my ponds. Most fish avoid eating toad tadpoles.

After about two months (5 to 10 weeks depending on temperature), the toads change to adults and leave. The adults eat insects and slugs (yeah!). One person reports that they eat cat food. I used to think the baby toads hopped away during the night, never to seen again. But in the summer of 1999 (July to be exact), the shallow areas of my 1800 gallon pond were hopping with dozens of tiny baby toads, some still with tails. They hung around for weeks, getting larger before leaving. This may have had to do with the drought and temperatures in the high 90's for weeks. My ponds were the only water for half a mile. When it gets cold, the adult toads partially bury themselves in the ground under something. The drought of 1999 must have killed most of the toads since only half a dozen returned to spawn in the spring of 2000 compared to over 30 the year before. From each batch of eggs, only a few toads will make it to breed in the future.

Stacy described the toad eggs that she found in April 2003 in such a good way that I thought I should put it here to help others identify their eggs too! She asked me to identify what they were after visiting my pond egg identification page. Here is what she had to say:
"...We are now seeing large amounts of eggs in the pond - long strings of hundreds of eggs together. They seem to be suspended in jelly - they are off the bank a little, so I can't identify color of spots. What is interesting is that the eggs are suspended in a coiled helix shape. They all seem to be attached or draped around the plant life, and only in about 1 foot of water...."

See the toad photo section for lots of photos of American toads.

Common Toad

The common toad is actually less common than the American toad. Bufo woodhousei grows from 2 to 5 inches in length. It is also called Woodhouse's toad. It mostly eats insects. The common toad breeds from March to July, later than the American toad. Up to 8,000 eggs are laid per female. The tadpoles leave after one or two months, depending on temperature. They are much less vocal than the American toads. The male's call is supposed to be like a sheep's bleat and last one to four seconds. I thought I saw a solitary common toad every once in a while but had not heard its call as of 5/99. The common toad has brown splotches edged in black over a grayish, brown body. In my opinion, they are more colorful and cuter than the American toad. While both the common and American toad have body ridges, only the common toad's ridge touches the parotoid glands. The common toad may prefer more sandy type soils. It occurs further west in the USA than the American toad but does not roam in Canada where the American toad does. Their range overlaps in the Eastern and mid-US.

On 4/10/01, I found a pair of possible common toads mating in my 153 gallon pond. They are smaller than American toads in my area. Unusually, they were breeding before the American toads who usually showed up first but were nowhere to be found. The female common toad had striping on her legs that I had never seen on American toads. The male was a light to medium brown while the American toads are very dark brown. These toads laid fewer eggs than the American toads do. Even more strange is that I never heard the male common toad produce any noise at all. We had the windows open that night too and had heard frogs calling from much farther away. Now that they had produced eggs, I hoped to have more common toads in the future! Maybe they are not common toads but some rare species? They really do not look like any photos I have seen! Here is a photo of their week-old tadpoles.

On 8/4/07, my brother found this toad in the road. I think it might be a common toad (mostly because of the size and reddish color) versus the ironically more common American toad. I am not sure of the sex because it has male features but is fat like a female. What do you think about the species and sex of the toad?
Toad - side/top view
Toad - top view

Marine Toad

The Marine toad is not native to my state of Maryland or any state in the USA. However, it has been introduced to Florida, Hawaii, and parts of Australia. I am mentioning this species because of some ponders' concerns about toad toxicity. This is the toad to worry about. The Marine toad, Cane toad, or Giant toad is very poisonous. Its Latin name is Bufo marinus. It is huge, growing to 6 inches or more. The Marine toad has high bony ridges. While some people advocate increasing salinity as a deterrent, apparently this does nothing to deter them.

From what people have e-mailed me, marine toads are from Venezuela and have been introduced to Florida, Hawaii, and Australia to control sugar cane beetles. One person says the ones in Florida came from Australia and escaped from the Miami airport. Another person says the ones in Australia came from Hawaii. Apparently their route was thus Venezuela to Hawaii to Australia to Florida. In Australia, they have harmed small animals while potential predators have learned to avoid them. Australian crows are said to eat the non-poisonous underbelly.

The marine toad's call is a trill. Their eggs (up to 30,000 per spawn) and tadpoles look like that of the nearly harmless American and common toads. One person's dog bit a Marine toad, and the poison killed the dog. No biological controls are known since the toads, eggs, and tadpoles are too toxic for anything to eat. Certainly, few fish keepers would want them, their spawn, or their tadpoles in their pond. Anyone who believes that they have Marine toads should be sure not to injure other native species of toads or frogs by accident or misidentification. They seem to be intolerant of cold and so they should not become a problem outside of Florida, Texas, and other warm states or countries.

Here are some good links on cane toads (last verified links on 6/30/10):

Cane toad fact sheet
Cane toads in the garden
The Giant Toad - this is an archived version as the site is now gone.
Frogs and toads of Florida - includes a lot of information on dealing with marine toads; this is an archived version as the site is now gone.

I took this photo at the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C., on 6/12/09:
Cane toad

Western Toad

The Western toad or boreal toad, Bufo boreas, is native to the Western United States. They grow from two to five inches long.

Here is a Western toad photo that Tracy in Montana sent to me on 10/5/05.

Judith sent these photos of Western toads in California on 3/9/10 and 3/13/10.
Western toad - face
Western toad
Western toad eggs
Western toad eggs
Western toad eggs
Western toad tadpoles
Western toad tadpole
Western toad tadpoles
Western toad tadpoles - newly hatched

Here are more photos from May 2010 from Judith, presumably Western toads.
Tadpole with four legs and a springtail
Eggs and toadlet
Tadpole with two legs

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