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This Common Toad Can Be Found in Many Places

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

The American toad can live in forests, prairies, farm fields and even your backyard. That is why they are the most common toad in the eastern United States.


An America toad on a rock.
An American toad. (Photo via Shutterstock)

While toads are part of the frog family, they have some very specific differences with frogs. Here are two of the most noticeable:

  • Skin: Frog skin looks wet even when they are seen away from water. The surface of frog skin is usually smooth. Toads, on the other hand, have dry and bumpy skin. This allows toads to hold onto moisture and venture much farther away from water than their frog relatives.

  • Legs: Compared to the muscular, athletic-looking legs of many frogs, toads have much smaller and weaker-looking legs. It is no surprise that for toads, crawling is their favorite form of locomotion.


More American toad features


American toads are between 2 inches and 4 inches long. Their colors range from shades of green, brown, yellow and black to sometimes even striking orange and red. They also have a pair of kidney-bean-shaped parotid glands behind each eye. Like the other warty bumps on their body, these glands secrete a poison that helps protect toads.


Freshwater babies


Females prefer to lay eggs in ponds without fish. Males will head to these ponds and sing their song in hopes a female chooses them. Fertilization happens in the pond as the female lays a long, mucus-coated string of little black eggs. On average, they hatch in a week, but it can be sooner or later depending on the temperature of the water.


A whole lot of jet-black tadpoles will swim in schools for safety in shallow waters near the shore. About 40 days after hatching, fully metamorphosed toads will move to dry land. They will return to the water only when it is time for them to mate two to three years later.


Plenty of protection


Without the ability to hop long distances or with great speed, toads have developed different ways to protect themselves. Staying still and camouflaging is often their first line of defense. If that doesn’t work, they have poisonous glands that secrete a liquid that makes them taste awful.


For us the poison is only harmful if we swallow it or if it gets in our eyes, so be sure to wash your hands if you ever handle a toad. Some of their predators, like the common garter snake, are immune to their poison. The toad might urinate on itself to taste very yucky and/or puff its body as large as it can to try and be too big to swallow.


Friend to farmers


Farmers are fond of the American toad because their diet includes feasting on many of the pesty insects that harm farmers’ crops. One adult American toad can eat up to 1,000 insects in a day! In addition to insects, toads will eat snails, slugs, worms and spiders. Birds of prey, snakes and raccoons are all known to hunt and eat American toads.


The sweet song of summer

An American toad singing in the water.
An American toad singing. (Photo by Angela Rafac)

American toads fill summer nights with their melodic song. Mating occurs in late spring, so that is when the singing starts, but young males will sing all summer long to practice for the following spring. Their song is called a musical trill and may be only a few seconds or last as long as 30 seconds. Listen to their soothing call.

Enjoy spending time outdoors this season. And while you are at it, keep both an eye and ear out for the terrific American toad.

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