Natterjack toads are smaller in size than common toads, usually about 70mm in length. They are also more compact than common toads with shorter back legs. Natterjacks are olive green to brown in colour with warty skin; the warts may be tinged red. Their main distinguishing feature is a yellow stripe running down the centre of the back, although this may very rarely be absent. Some frogs have a distinct yellow stripe but their skin is smooth. The eyes are a distinctive yellow-green colour. The underside is off-white with grey speckles and, during the breeding season, the male can be distinguished by his bluish throat.
Natterjacks tend to run rather than hop or jump. Adults retreat into burrows during warm weather and emerge at night to feed on moths, woodlice and other insects. Along their coastal range, they have been known to follow the strand-line to find food such as sandhoppers and other marine invertebrates.
Hibernation takes place in burrows, usually excavated by the toad, but they are known to use the burrows of other animals such as rabbits, rodents and even sand martins.
Natterjack toads have very specialised living requirements and live almost exclusively in sand dunes, salt marshes and lowland heath. Natterjacks breed in unshaded, shallow, temporary ponds with gently sloping edges. They also require unshaded patches of bare ground with a soil type suitable for burrowing. From spring to autumn they shelter during the day under stones or debris. In hot weather they make their own burrows in the sand. Natterjacks hibernate from about October to April, often in high sandy banks which protect against flooding and winter frosts.