Great crested newts are our largest newt in the UK but their common name can be a little misleading – I have met many people who assume any newt with a crest is a great crested newt. This is not true – the smooth newt also has a crest but is a very different creature. The other old English name for great crested newt is the warty newt and this is a much better diagnostic tool for telling between the two species – the great crested newt has rough, bumpy skin whilst the smooth newt is as smooth as its name suggests. The great crested is also a much larger beast but the juveniles are very similar in size to a smooth newt and so it is important to know the characteristic differences to tell between the two at different life stages.
There is a third species – the palmate newt – which is similar to (although slightly smaller than) the smooth newt but the palmate has a smooth pink or yellow chin whilst the smooth newt has a blotchy patterned throat.
With a little practise, the smooth and the great crested newts are very easy to tell apart both in the hand and in the pond. On recent newt surveys, we came across males of both species and I have put together the two images below to show the key ID features for our two most frequently encountered newts.