Calling American Toads

Top Photo: American toad calls out from log in wetlands.

During the first couple of weeks in March I’d heard an occasional American toad calling from the wetlands. On Friday March 18, they were out in numbers calling from every corner of the swamp on the west side of our wetlands in Explore the Wild.

It’s a chorus of toads. The high-pitched, rolling trill, sometimes held for as long as 30 seconds, is a thrill to hear each spring, especially when dozens of toads are calling at the same time.

The entire toad’s body vibrates as it calls out from the swamp.

Here at the museum March thru April is peak time for breeding American toads. Heavy rains bring them out en masse. Ephemeral bodies of water are favored spots for breeding as there are fewer, if any, predators to eat the toads’ eggs or tadpoles.

The vocal sac extends as the frog communicates its intentions.

A single female toad may lay as many as 6,000 eggs in one season. The eggs emerge from the female in two long strings and are fertilized by the male as they exit.

American toads in amplexus. Note strings of black eggs directly behind and to either side of the mating pair.

The vernal pools the toads lay eggs in may dry up before the tadpoles morph into toads. The quicker the eggs hatch, and the tadpoles mature, the better. The eggs hatch in less than a week. In about 2 months, any surviving tadpoles morph into toads.

Toad tadpoles.
Newly morphed toad making its way to the uplands (June).

Outside of the wet areas used for breeding, American toads can be found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, meadows and suburban gardens.

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