one of our common UK newts in a garden

UK Newts Identification Guide

Although the UK may not be the first place that comes to mind when considering newts, we are actually home to a small population of British newts. Here in the UK, there are three native newt species that you may be lucky enough to spot. There are plenty of wildlife species who love our garden ponds, and UK newts are no different! So if you’ve spotted a visiting newt, you may wonder what species your garden has become home to. Here’s our UK newts identification guide to help you find out!

Smooth Newt

a smooth UK newt in a pond

Scientific Name: Lissotriton Vulgaris


The smooth newt is a common visitor to British gardens and local ponds. Easily identifiable by their orange stomachs dotted with black spots, male and female smooth newts are both brown in colour. Usually, the black spots extend from their stomach and up their throat. Additionally, during the breeding season, male smooth newts usually have a waving crest on their backs. Adult smooth newts can reach as long as 10cm from tail to nose[i].

Smooth newt tadpoles grow their front legs first, and you can distinguish them by the feathery gills behind their head.


Like all UK newts, the diet of a smooth newt is quite varied. When on land, a smooth newt may eat a variety of insects, worms and slugs. However, when in water, a smooth newt will snack on frog tadpoles, water snails and smaller crustaceans, like shrimps.

Breeding Habits

Throughout their breeding season, adult smooth newts tend to stay in the ponds where they spawn. Females lay their eggs individually, allowing pond plant leaves to wrap each one up for protection. Both juvenile and adult smooth newts leave the water in summer. Then, they take refuge in the damp soil beneath logs and rocks.


Smooth newts can live up to 14 years after reaching maturity after two or three years.

Where Can You Find Them?

The smooth newts are the most common of our British newts. So, you can find them up and down the UK, most commonly in garden ponds. However, they are absent from some Scottish islands and the Isle of Man.

Palmate Newt

a palmate newt swimming in a tank

Scientific Name: Lissotriton Helveticus


Palmate newts are very similar in appearance to smooth newts. However, unlike smooth newts, palmate newts have yellow or pink stomachs that lack spots. Their backs are an orangey brown colour dotted with black spots.

Male palmate newts have webbing on their back feet and a thin black strand at the end of their tails throughout the breeding season. Palmate newts are the smallest of our UK newts, growing to a maximum of 9 cm in length. Generally, female newts are longer than males.


Like smooth newts, palmate newts eat a range of land and water animals. This includes insects, worms, slugs, frog tadpoles and small crustaceans.

Breeding Habits

Palmate newts generally breed between March and July[ii], moving into the water throughout this period. Once their breeding season is over, they will migrate onto land, where they overwinter underground in damp soil.


Palmate newts can live for as long as 12 years in the wild. But, like smooth newts, palmate newts reach their sexual maturity at around two or three years.

Where Can You Find Them?

Palmate newts aren’t as common in the UK as other species. Their distribution around the UK is patchy, with decreased populations in central England and no individuals present in Ireland, the Isle of Man and a few Scottish islands. Generally, you can find palmate newts in shallow ponds in acidic spots, like bogs or heathland.

Great Crested Newt

a great crested newt in a garden

Scientific Name: Triturus Cristatus


Great Crested newts are the largest of our UK newts. Unlike other British newts, the Great Crested newts is an extremely dark brown with bumpy skin. Male and female Great Crested newts have orange bellies with blotchy dark spots. During the breeding season, males develop a spiked crest on their backs.

Like their parents, Great Crested newt tadpoles are covered in black spots with a small filament on their tail tip.


Great Crested newts favour frog tadpoles as well as the common insects, worms, slugs and crustaceans that other UK newts eat.

Breeding Habits

Like all British newts, Great Crested newts reproduce in water. Their breeding season lasts from March to June, and females use pond plants to wrap up their eggs before leaving the water following the end of their breeding season.


Great Crested newts are the longest-living UK newts, living as long as 15. However, it can take Great Crested newts up to four years to reach sexual maturity.

Where Can You Find Them?

Unfortunately, the Great Crested newt population numbers have been declining in the UK. However, you can still spot them across England, Wales and mainland Scotland. Fortunately, the law strongly protects the Great Crested newt and its habitat.

Are Newts Good For Ponds?

common UK newts in garden leaves

UK newts are incredibly beneficial to gardens and their ponds since they make good land predators. Newts will hunt slugs, snails and other typical small garden pests, helping to protect your garden from their damaging effects. Additionally, newts will also hunt harmful insects that may crop up in your pond.

If you spot a newt in your garden pond, you can rest assured that you have created a successful ecosystem home to various wildlife species. A healthy pond full of life will attract even more beneficial wildlife, including birds, foxes, dragonflies and hedgehogs. Plus, if you keep your eyes out, you may be lucky enough to spot newt tadpoles paddling around your pond!

Finally, if you do spot a newt in your pond, there’s no need to panic. It’s unlikely that newts will harm your pond fish or vice versa, so long as they are cold-hardy and not voracious eaters. Plus, you can continue feeding your current residents quality pond food – newts won’t eat it!

Identifying UK Newts

Although we’re only home to three newt species, our UK newts are undoubtedly crucial to our ecosystem. Of course, as pest control, they’re fantastic for our gardens. However, newts also greatly benefit our ecosystem by spreading nutrients from water to land throughout their complex lifecycles. So, if you spot any UK newts in your garden or pond, don’t worry – just keep on taking good care of your garden!

What do you think of our UK newts? Let us know your thoughts!  




One thought on “UK Newts Identification Guide

  1. Great new(t)s – I’ve found one in my pond which is my old cold water tank – it’s been there for approaching two years and I have baskets of forget me not, mint and pinky/green grass plus something else! I was scooping out the green slime and about to reduce the size of the ogygenating plants when I found little smooth newt-y – saw the spots underneath, so I quickly put him back. Question – should I leave the slimy green in case there are eggs? and usually I have a small solar fountain to keep it oxygenated – is it ok to have this running – obvs only when it’s sunny? I was beginning to think nothing would move in, but was probably too impatient. I’ve left the slimy stuff in the net resting in the pond in case there is life in it.

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