Toads: Facts, Characteristics, Behavior, Diet, More

The toad is a warty, short amphibian with dry leathery skin, that belongs to the Bufonidae family.

It shares a lot of similar traits with the frog. The scientific classification doesn’t distinguish both animals, but in popular culture, it is shown to be different from the frog by some physical traits. 

Toads have a way of life, behavior, diet, and natural methods of protecting themselves against enemies.

Scientific Classification

Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) Swimming In Lake
Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) Swimming In Lake


Height1.3 inches to 9 inches
Weight20g to 80g
Skin TypePermeable
HabitatForests, woodlands, marshes
DietCarnivore (Main prey: Insects, worms, spiders)
Lifespan2 to 4 years
Life Cycle3 to 65 days
Conservation statusLeast Concern

5 Interesting Facts About Toads 

1. Toads had a bad, “witchy” reputation.

In history, these croakers had a bad reputation. They were associated with the devil in the middle ages because of their poisonous skin, and depictions of the devil would show him with a coat of arms that had three toads. 

Sighting one was a bad omen, and when this creature was found in someone’s house, the person was suspected of witchcraft.

In recent times people’s attitudes towards toads have changed, but it isn’t healthy to get into direct contact with them.

They may not be the devil’s pets, but be cautious around them!

2. They have no teeth 

 Much like some other amphibians and reptiles, these animals have no teeth. Due to this lack, they don’t chew.

They use their sticky tongues to grab prey and swallow it alive. The bigger the toad, the bigger the prey it can eat.

Big ones can consume anything that their mouth can grab. 

3. Contrary to popular views, they don’t cause warts

The warty skin makes people nervous, and it is assumed that if you handle a toad you will develop warts. This isn’t true.

The warty skin doesn’t contain actual warts, and you won’t develop warts if you handle this animal.

However, you shouldn’t touch it. Skin-to-skin contact may not lead to much damage, but this amphibian may secrete a poison that can harm a human if ingested

4. Toads shed and eat

Toads are regular shedders, and many species are known to shed every couple of weeks when growing. The senior doesn’t shed as much.

Its number is often limited to four times a year. The skin peels off, and the toad disposes of the dead skin by eating it.

There are many reasons for this, two of which could be preserving nutrients and clearing any trace that a predator could use. 

5. They are nocturnal 

These animals are more active at night than during the day, and the only period you could see a toad in the daytime is the breeding season.

Their skin isn’t sun-friendly and they might get dehydrated if they spend too much time in the sun.

They would come out to get heat in the morning as cold-blooded amphibians, then stay in their burrows till night.

Nighttime is when they become more active. 

General Description 

Toads have dry skin, crests close to their eyes, warty lumps, and short legs.

These are what differentiate it from its close relative the frog. It also has a parotoid gland which is responsible for the poison secreted on its skin. 

The poisonous substance is called bufotoxin, and it can kill an animal. It isn’t considered fatal to humans but can cause allergic reactions and other effects.

They could either be brightly colored or a duller green/brown. All these colors can serve as protection from predators, though used in different ways.

A green or brown toad will blend into the surroundings to hide from a predator, while the brightly colored one will use the colors as a warning. 

Distribution and Habitat 

Many species can be found in the United States, but they are not limited. They have a wide distribution, appearing in every continent except Antarctica.

They are common amphibians just like frogs, and it is rare to have never seen one.

They live in areas with foliage,  such as forests, woodlands, fields, parks, and gardens. A species known as the common toad would climb on trees and rest under leaves during the heat.

They could also burrow under roots and stones to find a comfortable place to rest. Their preferred habitat is an environment they can easily blend in.

For instance, grey toads stay on rocks, while green frogs will perch on leaves.  


Toads are primarily carnivores, and despite their size, they are voracious eaters. They’re opportunistic hunters that can make do with any available prey, but their main preference seems to be invertebrates.

Insects, worms, caterpillars, and beetles are some examples. 

Besides invertebrates, these amphibians can also feed on small mammals like mice.

Sometimes they use their tongues to hold the prey that they swallow. Other times they may employ a traditional hunting method.

Just as they pose a risk to their predators, toads may face the risk of consuming a poisonous bug.

The bombardier beetle is one such insect. Also known as the farting bug, this beetle defends itself by farting a poisonous substance after it gets swallowed.

This upsets most toads, and they’d often regurgitate the bug. 

Mating Process and Reproduction 

They often return to the pool where they were born to breed, and the males use their vocals as signals to attract the females.

Siblings hardly mate as they know how to recognize their close kin and avoid them. Inbreeding can happen, but it is rare with toads. 

As the breeding season approaches, male toads grow nuptial pads on their fingers.

These pads help them hold on to the females as they mount. Once mounted, they start fertilizing. This can last for days.

All species lay eggs, and the females can lay between 3,000 to 6,000 of these eggs.

The eggs are arranged in strings that measure up to 15 feet. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks for the tadpoles to hatch.

These tadpoles form a group called shoals, and they feed on the jelly of the egg strings at first.

Eventually, they start swimming on their own. It takes 12 days for them to mature into adults. 

Predators and Threats

Toads’ main enemies are snakes, birds of prey, and raccoons. Humans aren’t predators, but also pose a big threat to the amphibians due to human activities that cause habitat loss.

The use of chemicals in gardens and other places where toads can be found contributes to their decline. 

Many animals don’t enjoy eating toads because of the poisonous substance on the skin, but some predators are immune.

Others also know how to sidestep it, like birds that poke holes in the toad to eat only the livers. 

Fortunately, they have camouflage to help protect themselves. Some also puff their bodies to look bigger and frighten off predators. 

Other predators are:

  • Hedgehogs
  • Rats
  • Herons 
  • Minks 
  • Blow flies


They do not move around in groups, except when they need to make tadpoles.

These are solitary creatures that survive independently of themselves.

They hunt and live alone, doing their major activities at night and then resting when the sun is high. 

Wintertime is a sleeping period for toads. While some might consider this a form of hibernation, the toad doesn’t slow down its bodily functions the same way hibernating animals do. 

Spring is the wake-up season for toads, and they embark on a migration. Autumn is spent looking for food. 

Unlike frogs, toads don’t leap continuously. They prefer crawling from one point to the other, and would only hop when need be.

They croak for different reasons, like mating and settling disputes.

Male vs Female 

The males and females are alike in many ways, making it challenging to point out the differences.

However, here are some notable qualities that set both genders apart:

  • The male has a larger head, as well as a thick neck. 
  • Females are generally larger.
  • The males make more sounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are toads poisonous?

Toads are considered poisonous, and the poison is fatal to animals. A typical individual secretes a poisonous substance known as bufotoxin from its parotoid gland, which serves to deter predators. 

Is the toad a frog species?

Though there’s no difference in scientific taxonomy, toads and frogs are not the same. The toad is considered a different animal from the frog, and they have distinct qualities like their skin texture and leg shape. 

Can toads be good pets?

A toad can make a good pet, but with animals of this nature, you have to be careful. Supervise any encounter your kids have with one, and try not to handle the animal with bare hands. Wash your hands thoroughly after any encounter, and do not put the hand in your mouth or close to your eyes. 

Can a toad kill a human?

Toads aren’t considered fatal to humans, and it is rare to have a death case. However, this amphibian can still cause an allergic reaction which could be deadly depending on the individual in question. The poison is also dangerous if ingested. 


The toad might look like a frog, but it is a separate animal with its set of survival skills, looks, and behaviors.

You could have one as a pet if it interests you, but be mindful of the skin! Best to not handle it frequently. 

Like many other animals, they have a big role to play in the ecosystem. We shouldn’t be contributing to their dwindling population by killing them.

If you want to get rid of these amphibians in your environment, there are more humane ways of doing it.