Wild Profile: Meet the American toad

Published: April 14, 2020

American toad sitting on rock By Miles Boyer/Shutterstock

One of our most resilient amphibians, the American toad, is a common species to spot in early spring and summer. Why are toads so tough? They’re able to withstand the harmful effects of habitat loss and pollution—major problems for most of their froggy cousins. Toads are habitat generalists (they can live almost anywhere), and can survive even when moisture is scarce or ponds, lakes, and rivers are contaminated.

During mating season—it peaks in May—male toads start to trill, calling out to their love interests. It sounds a little like the whir of cricket song, but you’ll most often hear the lustful cries on warm evenings, when the temperature is at least 10°C. Trills come in 15 to 20 second bursts; the higher the temperature, the shorter the duration. The pitch of a toad’s call also varies with its size. This helps larger female toads pick a mate of similar bulk.

Do toads give you warts? Of course not. Still, don’t pick them up, and keep your dog away: the two large glands on either side of their heads produce a liquid toxin. This can act as an irritant for humans—you definitely wouldn’t want to get any in your eyes—and it could be potentially dangerous for a dog, if he were to attempt to, say, eat the toad.

Of course, toads have a few other tricks up their bumpy sleeves: they can puff themselves up to discourage snake predators from swallowing them, and they’re able to “disappear” into the ground by rapidly digging with their back legs and sinking out of sight. Alakazam!

Amphibians, like all wildlife, benefit from natural garden habitat. Here are 3 easy ways to make a wildlife-friendly garden.

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