Greenscape Environmental
01743 872900

Great Crested Newts

The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) is the largest native newt in the United Kingdom. They differ from our other two native species the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and palmate newt (L. helveticus) in size and appearance, the typical great crested newt adult male reaches 110-120mm and the typical female reaches 110-130mm, as opposed the smooth and palmate’s typical size of 90-100mm. Both the male smooth and the male great crested share a crest, but whereas the male smooth newt has a continuous wavy crest, the male great crested newt has a sharply jagged crest with a break the base of the tail.

Both male and female great crested newts have a vivid orange belly with irregular black splotches, their skin has a granular appearance and is typically darker than the other species.


Image below is of underneath a Male Newt, A Alpine Female & A Alpine Male Newts

under Newtalpine femalemale alpine


Great crested newts do not spend their whole life in the ponds, they spend the majority of the year on land, hibernating over winter and living under various rocks, logs and tussocks.

In the spring the adults begin their migration to the ponds for breeding, the time of year can vary depending on the weather each year but the breeding season typically starts in March and runs until the end of June.

During the breeding season females lay their eggs on suitable plants, laying them individually on leaves where they fold the leaf over the egg to protect it. The eggs hatch in to the larval form after about two to four weeks depending on the weather, over the next six weeks the larvae will develop legs until it becomes an eft, identifiable as a great crested newt, but retaining the gills of the larval form. The young remain in the pools until their gills are absorbed, sometimes overwintering in the pools until the following year.


The great crested newt is Britain’s most strictly protected amphibian, protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended), as a result it is an offence to:

  • capture, kill, disturb or injure great crested newts deliberately
  • damage or destroy a breeding or resting place
  • obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places (deliberately or by not taking enough care)
  • possess, sell, control or transport live or dead newts, or parts of them
  • take great crested newt eggs

You could be sent to prison for up to 6 months and be fined £5,000 for each offence if you’re found guilty. (Taken from

Careful survey work is needed to identify where they are present. This helps us to develop management plans to minimise the impact of a development, and hopefully enhance the area for them, doing our part to help halt their decline.



How do we do this?


Initial surveys


Surveying for great crested newts starts at the desk top. The first priority is to identify ponds in the vicinity of the site on an OS map. This depends on the scale of the project, and the potential damage that could be caused by it. Larger sites see us looking for ponds within 500m of the boundary, while smaller scale developments that will have less of an impact on the development will see us identifying ponds within 250m.

Once we have identified the ponds on the map we then undertake a physical survey of the ponds as part of the Phase 1 surveys. To do this we use a Habitat Suitability Index that was developed to assess habitat quality, and is a useful tool for identifying ponds where great crested newts might be present. This is combined with our own experience of surveying for great crested newts. We look at a variety of factors, including the quantity and quality of aquatic plant life, insect diversity and water quality, as well as looking at the surrounding areas.


Activity Surveys


Once we have identified likely sites we plan the Phase 2 surveys. Up to six surveys may be required if great crested newts are found as a part of the survey works, these typically involve a dusk survey followed by a dawn survey using at least three techniques to help ensure we meet Natural England’s guidelines.

The techniques used are:

  • Egg searching, where we look for evidence of eggs on the plants in the pond, we can identify great crested newt eggs confirming the presence of a breeding pond.
  • Torching, during the dusk survey a powerful torch is used to look at the margins of the pond where newts can often be seen in gaps in the vegetation.
  • Bottle trapping, where modified bottles are used in the pool itself to catch the newts overnight, allowing us to identify and count them during the dawn part of the survey.
  • Netting, a long-handled dip-net is used to dredge the bottom of the pond, capturing newts to establish presence.


Of these the first three are preferred, but netting is useful for ponds with reduced visibility or where bottle traps are not feasible, such as in a lined pond.

A refugia search is also conducted, both as part of the initial surveys of the pond and during the pond surveys, this is as simple as looking under items around to ponds to find newts in their terrestrial phase.

We can also use Environmental DNA testing to identify whether great crested newts have used the pond previously. A sample of the pond water is taken and sent to a specialist lab where they can identify residual great crested newt DNA. This can confirm that newts have been present in the pool, but doesn’t guarantee that they are still using it. There is a window of opportunity to undertake eDNA testing which extends to the end of June.  The DNA will break down in water over a period of time.

To meet Natural England guidelines we perform at least four surveys where great crested newts are not found, and six surveys where they are found to better determine the population size. Surveys are done between mid-March and mid-June, with at least three visits in peak season, from mid-April to mid-May.



 Image taken whilst doing a survey                

What next?


Once we have determined the presence or absence of newts we can then assist you with planning your project in keeping with the law. If we don’t find great crested newts then the project can normally proceed as planned, and we can help you with recommendations to enhance the area if suitable.

If we do find great crested newts then the project can normally proceed as planned, we will help you plan your management strategy to protect the great crested newts and their habitat, or mitigate against the loss of habitat and help to develop recommendations to enhance the area in respect to great crested newts.



Logan Maggs




Sundorne Landscape

Noxious & Invasive Weeds