The Eastern American toad (Bufo americanus americanus… bufo is Latin for toad) is usually some shade of brown, but colors can vary from olive to tan to gray to red and can change depending on the toad’s surroundings and age. Eastern American toads are short and broad, from two to around four inches long, and have a wide head and short, muscular legs. A mature female toad is larger than an adult male, and her skin is much rougher in texture, with more pointed dorsal warts. Eastern American toads have chests and throats that are cream or white with spots, although the males’ throats will always be darker. Toads have a very warty appearance, and the warts (raised swellings, not “real” warts) protect them from predators by secreting bufotoxin, an unpleasant white substance that is a mild, foul-tasting poison. The large swellings behind the eyes are the paratoid glands, and in Eastern American toads, the paratoid glands do not touch the raised ridges on the back of the head that are called cranial crests. Another identifying factor is that Eastern American toads have only one or two warts in each spot. Other types of toads have more.
Eastern American toads breed in April and May in fresh, shallow water. The female lays gelatinous strings of up to twelve thousand eggs that hatch after about four days. The tadpoles develop rapidly and have become toadlets by June or July.
Eastern American toads often stay in one area. They like to be where temperatures are cool and there is loose soil and a food souce. Toads have knobs on their back feet that they use to shove dirt aside. It is quite amazing to see them suddenly sink into the soil and disappear. Toads also hibernate underground during winter. Because we have many toads living in our gardens, we have learned to dig very carefully in the spring. Many times a shovel full of dirt will also often contain a very dopey hibernating toad!
This little toad was climbing a tree when I first saw him. He went up the tree for about three feet and then slowly backed all the way down.
Toads are often called hop toads because they move in short hops instead of in long leaps as frogs do. Toads are great to have in the garden. One toad eats more than three thousand insects per season, using their hands and arms to push the food into their mouths.