Essex Biodiversity Project
Great Crested Newt
Identification - The great crested newt is the largest of the three newt species that live naturally in the British Isles. It has a widespread distribution. It can grow up to 17cm long and has dark, warty skin speckled with white spots. The males have a jagged crest during the breeding season, which has a gap between the tail and body. It also has a white flash on the tail. The underside or belly is bright yellow/orange with irregular black spots. The other two species, the smooth newt and palmate newt are much smaller (up to 10 cm) and are paler. A licence is needed to handle or survey great crested newts. (Photo - Essex Wildlife Trust)
General ecology - It is quite widespread in Britain especially lowland England and Wales. It is widespread in Essex with higher numbers in the south and west. Its main habitats are ponds which it needs for breeding and it spends the rest of the year on land. The adults can move up to one kilometre between ponds where suitable habitats exist. Eggs are laid in April and May in folded leaves and the newt larvae (tadpoles) feed on insects in the pond from May to September. Adults and young rest on land during the day and their main food sources are worms, insects, spiders and slugs. They spend the winter on land. Although the British population is amongst the largest in Europe, it has suffered some loss of colonies (groups) at a rate of 2% over five years. There is still a lack of data on number of ponds available for newts to live in. Their main threats are lost of habitats both terrestrial and aquatic, degradation and pollution, development (eg. housing, roads) isolation of ponds and invasive introduced pond plants.
Surveying tips - Please read the Great Crested Newt Leaflet (pdf 300kb)
This survey looks at suitable habitats such as ponds as well as actually recording presence of great crested newts.