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American Toad

With the first warm, wet night of spring, American Toads migrate from their woodland and garden homes to their breeding wetlands. If you are out on that night, you may hear them hopping through the leaves.

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Male American Toad in the woods.

American Toads breed in early spring in Philadelphia, usually in April. Males arrive first at ponds and along the banks of creeks.

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Male American Toad in Fairmount Park pond.

When the males reach water, and the air temperature is warm enough, they begin to call. Their song is a long trill lasting from 6 to 30 seconds. Only the males sing.

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A male American Toad calls.

Females are drawn to the choruses of the males. As soon as a female arrives at the pond or creek, males will try to grab her. Males have horny tubercles on their first and second fingers to get a tight hold on the female. This mating grasp is called amplexus. The pair will stay in amplexus until they mate or another male separates them. Males are smaller than females and are always the ones on top.

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American Toads in amplexus

Sometimes more than one male will grab onto the female and a small toad ball will form. This can be dangerous for the female. Occasionally a female drowns because she cannot get to the surface to breath.

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Two males holding on to female in the middle

Mating takes place within a few hours of the female's arrival. The female lays two long strands of eggs which come out side by side. As the eggs emerge, the male releases sperm into the water to fertilize them.

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Female releases two strands of eggs while smaller male fertilizes

The eggs strings, if stretched out, would extend 20 ft. or more. But they quickly coil up like an old phone cord. The eggs come out of the female in spurts, you can see clumps of eggs in places. In between spurts she moves (with the male holding on)stretching out some of the clumps.

American toads mating and laying eggs
Mating and egg laying. All of these eggs are from this female.
Doug Says: If every egg from one pair of toads survived to adulthood, and each toad lived for five years, and all of the eggs from their descendents survived, the entire surface of the earth would be covered in toads in fifteen years.

The eggs are blackish on top and white below. The long curly strands anchor the eggs to rocks and sticks under water to keep them from washing away.

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American Toad eggs

Depending on the water temperature, eggs hatch in three days to two weeks and tiny black tadpoles emerge. Eggs hatch faster in warmer water.

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Toad tadpoles

The tadpoles grow for several weeks. In less than two months they metamorphose into toadlets. These tiny toads are less than half an inch long. In a good year, thousands can cover the ground on the side of a pond.

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Newly metamorphosed toadlet on penny

Within days, the toadlets travel away from the wetlands into the woods and gardens where they will spend most of their lives.

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Woodland habitat of American Toad

The little toads grow rapidly and will be ready to breed in two or three years.

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American Toad adult from the Adirondacks

Learn more about toads. Read the book!

The Hidden Life of a Toad
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