By week’s end, the pond contains many thousands of eggs that soon transform into wriggling black pollywogs (also called tadpoles) and, after about six weeks, into tiny terrestrial toads.
Other North American species of toads enact similar courting rituals. The song of Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) can be heard in May and June through much of the eastern United States, while the red-spotted toad (Anaxyrus punctatus) sings in spring from Texas to Southern California.
Protect Your Toads
Encourage toads to live and breed in your yard by digging a shallow pond for them. Create a no-mow zone near the pond, and restrict mowing elsewhere to the midday hours, when toads are sheltering from the sun.
Pollywogs eat algae that grows on the surface of submerged leaf litter, so it is important not to clean out all of the twigs, leaves, and other bits of organic material that have accumulated in your pond through fall and winter. Please, no fish in the toad pond: They will eat every last pollywog.
A Final Tip: Be sure to cover your window wells. Each year, millions of toads perish after jumping into window wells they can’t escape from.
The best way to hear the springtime serenade of American toads is to seek them out in their natural habitat. You can also eavesdrop online, at the website of Cornell University’s Macaulay Library. Find an audio clip at macaulaylibrary.org.
Douglas W. Tallamy is a professor at the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home.