Courtesy Dr. Robert Thomas
The Houston toad is a very secretive species and is seldom seen, except on warm, humid evenings during its breeding season (January-June, with a peak in February and March),
when males call to attract females. A breeding pond with calling males is known as a “chorus.” The chorus heralds the coming of spring. Echoing through the forest, the high clear trills sound
much like the tinkling of small bells. Males vocalize by distending the vocal sac. When the sac is distended, the skin of the throat appears dark and bluish. Females of this species do not
Males are very single-minded in their efforts to mate and will grasp a variety of moving objects in the vicinity of a pond. A female approaching a chorus, if she can avoid the gauntlet of
grasping males, will choose a particular male on the basis of certain characteristics of his call. A female toad may lay several thousand eggs in long single-egg strands that are fertilized
externally by males as they are laid. The eggs hatch in about seven days, and tadpoles metamorphose (change) into tiny toadlets (½ inch long) within 15 to 100 days, depending on water
temperature and the magnitude of threat from predators. Water is needed throughout this entire period to prevent desiccation (drying up) of the eggs and tadpoles.
After adult and young toads leave the breeding pond, they forage across the landscape looking for insects and other invertebrates, traveling up to a mile within a 24-hour period. Because their
skin is more-or-less permeable to water, toads become dormant to escape harsh weather conditions, such as winter cold (hibernation) and drought (estivation). They seek protection during this
time by burrowing into sand or hiding under rocks, logs, leaf litter, or in abandoned animal burrows. Even though the Houston toad secretes distasteful chemicals, adults and young are known
to fall victims to predators as diverse as spiders, snakes, turtles, owls, raccoons, and other frogs.