That Nature Show: The Summer Song of the American Toad

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Eastern American Toad via Wikimedia Commons.
Eastern American Toad. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

Living in our window wells are toads. Eastern American toads.  You’ll recognize the sound from recent nights, but maybe you didn’t know it was made by an amorous little amphibian. Listen to one here. Toad calls herald summer, as much as the sound of Memorial Day lifeguards yelling at my kids to stop running on the pool deck, hammering blue crabs with a mallet, popping the cork on pink wine, and the incessant whine of my neighbor’s ride-on lawnmower. 

My kids, 6 and 9, have named the toads Chirper, Fatso, Dead Player. There is also Miss American Toad. Chirper is loud. Fatso is cartoonishly large and, we learned, female.

American toads exhibit sexual dimorphism which (contrary to what I thought, and maybe hoped) is not kinky sex but rather the way scientists have of saying that the sexes differ in looks.

In peacocks the male has that fabulous tail, and the female has that dun name “peahen.” In American toads the female dwarfs the male in much the same way, in my marriage, when it comes to Internet capability and keeping calm when dealing with the cable company, my husband dwarfs me. But I tower over him when it comes to whipping dinner out of what seems to be an empty fridge.

Dead Player appears to be dead. But is he? Just when my daughter, 6, was feeling sad and planning a few words to say at his simple shoebox memorial, the toad jumped out of her hand and back into the grass, freaking out our easily freaked-out dog and reminding me of that Mark Twain quote, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

I named Miss American Toad. Just like the Don McLean song, except in place of “pie” I sang “toad.” My son, 9, was like, ::eye roll:: ::face palm:: ::eye roll:: my son, whom I can shame simply with my dimwittedness about the game Minecraft.

We released Miss American Toad from the window well to a pond. “She caught the last train for the coast,” I said. But it was not the day the music died.

Bye Bye Miss American Toad. Rock the casbah.

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