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Newts

NEWTS found in British Gardens

Newts start to return to their ponds during February and March, although the  main breeding period  is  in April  and May. In all three  species,  there  is  an  elaborate courtship  ritual  in which the male "dances" in front of the female,  undulating  his crest  and  showing  off  his fine colours. After mating, the  female lays her  eggs singly - using her hind feet to fold the leaf of an underwater plant around each one.

The newt tadpoles hatch in about two weeks - miniatures of their parents, but with feathery external  gills. From the start they are  carnivorous, preying  upon  small aquatic  insects,  frog and  toad tadpoles, and even each other.  They  in  turn  are preyed  upon by other water creatures, and by the time they are ready to leave  the pond  in  August, their numbers are much reduced. In common with frog  and  toad tadpoles,  some  may  remain  in  the pond  for  a  further year  before  undergoing metamorphosis - this can happen if the food supply is poor.

 After  leaving the pond at the end of the breeding season, the adult newts take  up residence  under  logs and stones, in crevices in walls, and in other  similar  places. They  frequently remain in these during hibernation, although as winter  approaches some  will  bury themselves in the soil or find their way  into  underground  cavities around  the foundations of buildings. Often, several species of newt can  be  found hibernating together; they will sometimes share their winter quarters with frogs and toads, too.

 All  native British amphibians are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside  Act, 1981,  and the sale  of all three of our newt  species,  including  their  eggs  and tadpoles,  is prohibited. Great Crested Newts are a threatened species  and  receive additional  protection - it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, possess or disturb  the animals or to damage their habitat. All stages of their life cycle are protected, and a licence is required from English Nature before Great Crested Newts can be  caught, even for survey work.

Three  species  of  newt  are  native to Britain  -  the  Great  Crested, Smooth  and Palmate, and may be found in your back garden:

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus cristatus)


Colour:Dark, often warty, speckled skin, with an orange/yellow belly. In the springtime, male Great Crested Newts grow a wavy crest along their backs and tails. Their tails have a silvery-blue streak along each side. Female Great Crested Newts have a yellow-orange streak along the bottom of their tails.

About:  Lives in large ponds and slow-moving streams from March to September; scrub, woodland and undisturbed grassland from October to February, it is easiest to spot at this time.  In the water, adults eat similar animals, as well as frog tadpoles. On land small slugs, worms and beetles are most often taken as food. The Great Crested Newt, along with our other native newts, has suffered a serious decline in recent years. There have been concerns that the Great Crested Newt has declined faster in Britain than the other widespread amphibians and reptiles. Britain has particular responsibility for conservation of Great Crested Newts because it holds the strongest populations of this
species, which is threatened in Continental Europe. The Great Crested Newt is listed as a ‘species of community interest’ and is given protection by Annexes ii(a) and iv(a) of the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Directive. It is also on the ‘top list’ of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Breeding:  March to July, up to 300 eggs are laid singly and attached to the leaves of water plants. These hatch in 2-3 weeks.  The tadpoles eat a range of small freshwater animals, including water shrimps, worms and snails.
Size:  Great Crested Newts are the largest of our native newts, growing up to 16 cms long.

The Crested newt (Triturus cristatus)

is a beautiful European newt species. The changes in morphology and coloration undergone by males of this species during breeding season are remarkable; males acquire brilliantly colored dots and stripes, and grow jagged dorsal crests. In full breeding attire, males look much like tiny dinosaurs!

Palmate Newt (Triturus helveticus)


Colour: Olive green to olive brown, with small spots.  Female has a reddish stripe down the back when on land.  Male palmate newts are easy to identify, having a dark eye-stripe, a low, smooth crest and a short but obvious filament at the end of the tail. They also have webbed hind feet. Female newts are very difficult to identify.  Palmate newts are small and timid, so the species could be under-recorded.

About: On land they can be found at the base of vegetation, under stones or in soil crevices. In water, they are found in almost any stand of water no matter how small. Mainly in soft-water areas.  Widespread distribution,  spend much of their time in the weedy shallow water on the margins of ponds, lakes and slow-flowing rivers.     Easily seen in pond by torchlight at night or by netting during the day.  The meaning of the Latin name: Triturus = from the Greek Triton a demigod of the sea, helveticus = Switzerland, where the species was first discovered. 

Breeding: Usually spends the winter on land in the hibernating (resting) stage, entering water for breeding in March/April. Individuals may choose to remain in water during spring and summer or to return to the land.  During the breeding season the male Palmate Newt has webbed hind feet and a thread at the end of its tail.  The females have none of these features and are almost identical to each other, the young newts are born in spring or early summer.

Size: Female 9cm, Male 7.5cm.

Smooth, or Common Newt (Triturus vulgaris vulgaris)

Colour: . The female is dull but the male is brightly coloured with a yellow or orange underside

About: The common newt is one of our most common breeding amphibians. They are smaller than great crested newts and males have a smaller crest. They also have a spotted belly, but tend to be lighter in colour, yellow-olive rather than the dark green of the great crested newts. They are very common, and occur on most nature reserves, as well as most garden ponds.  During the breeding season the male Smooth Newt has a wavy crest along its back. The females cannot easily be told apart.  On land: at base of vegetation, under stones or in soil crevices. In water in almost any stand of water no matter how small, mainly in hard-water areas.  Also easily seen in pond by torchlight at night or by netting during the day.  The meaning of the Latin name: Triturus = from the Greek Triton a demigod of the sea, vulgaris = Latin for vulgar or common.

Breeding: Again, the Smooth Newt Usually spends winter on land hibernating and enters water to breed in March/April. Individuals may choose to remain in water during spring and summer or return to the land.  The Smooth Newt male has a wavy crest along its back.  These Newts hibernate from October to March and can be seen in ponds, lakes and slow moving waters in spring when they return to lay eggs

Size: 6-11cm.

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