Common Toads, Bufo bufo, and How to Help Them.

by Judith John.

Common toads spend the winter lying dormant in places such as compost heaps, beneath log piles or in crevices in walls, sometimes coming out to forage for invertebrates. They are generally nocturnal and emerge from 'hibernation' on damp, mild nights when the temperature is above 5 degrees Centigrade. In the Bromley area this is typically in February but will vary from year to year and according to site.

When toads are mature enough to breed (2-3 years old) they return to the pond where they were originally spawned, travelling up to 400 metres (occasionally as much as 2kms) but if suitable ponds are constructed en route to the original breeding pond these may be used. Males often start to move first and will wait around the pond for females to arrive and then climb on their backs. When they are returning to ponds many are killed on roads.

Toadspawn is laid in long ribbons wound around the underwater stems of pond plants so toad ponds will have submerged and/or emergent plants. Vegetation around pond margins is also very important, providing toadlets leaving the pond protection from drying out and from predators such as birds. Native plants in and around ponds are always better than non-native as they are used as food by the invertebrates which are then eaten by toad poles and toads. The ideal toad pond is deeper than that required by frogs and has a depth in some areas of 90cms.Toadlets leave ponds in large numbers over a few days in summer.

Common Toad, Bufo bufo. Photo by Bill Welch. Common Toad, Bufo bufo. Photo by Bill Welch.

Toads spend most of their lives on land, living in scrub, woodland, beneath hedgerows or in coarse grassland feeding at night on insects, worms, slugs and other invertebrates.

According to Froglife, toad populations in south-east England have fallen by more than 68% since 1986.

Records of toads in the London Borough of Bromley submitted to Bromley Biodiversity Partnership Species and Habitats Sub-Group 2017-2019 show that there are breeding ponds in High Elms Country Park, Scadbury Park, Jubilee Park, Spring Park, Brook Lane, pond near Duggan Drive and in Ridgeway Drive (both in Sundridge Park area), Keston (though which pond here is uncertain) and gardens in Newstead Avenue near Newstead Woods, Courtfield Rise West Wickham, Wickham Chase (near Langley Park Golf Course), Kidbrook Close - near Petts Wood Recreation Ground/Crofton Woods, West Way Petts Wood, Leamington Close near Grove Park Cemetery & River Quaggy, Kingsway Coney Hall, and near Coopers School and Norlands Crescent Chislehurst.

Threats to Toads

Next steps: Work for 2020

Results from 2017-2019 have revealed a few ponds where toads breed, but more records are needed, particularly evidence of breeding. The easiest and safest way to do this is to have a look, in daylight, for male and female toads in amplexus (a male on top of and holding onto the larger female) in or very near to a pond in March/April according to weather conditions. Help with this would be very much appreciated but it is very important that great care is taken near ponds, the banks of which may be very slippery at this time of year.

Using binoculars to look from a short distance away should be ok but we urge that no-one takes any risks in looking out for toads. If anyone is interested in having a look for toads in amplexus, please contact Bromley Biodiversity. Information received regarding when amplexus is first noted in the borough can be sent to interested parties so they know when to start checking nearby ponds.

Other Measures

The following measures could help toads in Bromley:

1. Plant more native species in gardens and encourage others including schools and sports grounds to plant hedgerows of native species and leave areas of grass uncut during the summer. This would help to increase prey items available for toads because the invertebrates they eat tend to be adapted to live on native species rather than exotic plants.

2. Decrease pesticide and herbicide use and encourage others to do the same.

3. Have a wild area in your garden or local park with some scrub, a log pile and a pond.

4. When toadlets are emerging from ponds stop cutting or strimming grass in this area for a week or so until they have disappeared.

5. Consider contacting Froglife regarding helping toads cross roads: see Froglife's Toads On Roads page.

6. Continue to send records to


To see or download a poster about helping toads, please click here:

     Downloadable Toad Poster

Maps of toad sightings in the London Borough of Bromley can be viewed or downloaded here:

     Downloadable Toad Maps

This article is copyright © Judith John 2018 and 2020. The photograph is copyright © Bill Welch 2015.