Step outside this week and discover nature in the call of the American toad.
This most common toad in Missouri will start calling that sustained, high-pitched musical trill this week from area ponds and water-filled ditches. These amphibians control destructive insects and add their voices to the outdoor choir we enjoy on Missouri spring and summer nights.
Missouri toads and frogs are colorful, harmless, vocal and valuable. Our forests, prairies, rivers, swamps and marshes are home to a multitude of toads and frogs, but few people know how many varieties we have, how to tell them apart, or much about their natural history.
Medium sized with large kidney-shaped glands behind each eye, the toad’s pupils are horizontal. They’re two to three inches in length, gray, light or reddish brown with dark spots on its back that might encircle one to three warts. With this species, females are usually larger than the males.
Since their bodies readily take in contaminants, they are good indicators of environment health. Amphibian skin secretions are also used in medical research to control and cure human diseases.
You can keep your property friendly for toads by keeping fishless water sources like puddles or small ponds for their spring and summer breeding seasons.
You can also learn to identify a variety of toads and frogs by the sounds they make. A male toad or frog produces his call by a rapid back-and-forth movement of air over his vocal cords. When calling, it will close its mouth and nasal openings and force air from its lungs over the vocal cords into the mouth cavity, and then back over the vocal cords to the lungs.
To keep track of current natural events like when to listen for the American toad, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.