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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Desert Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus variegatus

(Baird, 1859)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Western Banded Geckos California Range Map
Range in California: Red

Blue: San Diego Banded Gecko



Listen to this Gecko





observation link





Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
  Adult, eastern Riverside County  
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult, Inyo County Adult, San Diego County Spotted adult - with no bands,
Imperial County. © Stuart Young
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult, Inyo County Adult female, Imperial County Adult, San Diego County
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult male, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko  
Adult, San Berardino County
© Ben Smith
Adult, eastern Riverside County
© Geoff Fangerow
Adult, San Diego County
© Patrick Briggs
 
       
Juveniles
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Juvenile, Santa Clarita,
Los Angeles County
Sub-adult, eastern Kern County Juvenile, Imperial County Juvenile, San Bernardino County
© Jennifer Rosta
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko    
Juvenile male, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
Subadult male, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
   
       
Comparisons of Banded Geckos in California

Also see Western Banded Geckos, Coleonyx variegatus, in California
Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard Desert Banded Gecko  
San Diego Banded Gecko (C. v. abbotii) (on fingers)
Intergrade (in the middle)
Desert Banded Gecko (C. v. variegatus) (near wrist)

All three were found in Baja California Norte where the ranges of the two subspecies meet. © Stuart Young

Desert Banded Gecko on the left with a
San Diego Banded Gecko on the right for comparison. © Bruce Edley
 
Peninsular Banded Gecko Gecko Skin    
Peninsula Banded Geckos, (C. switaki) left,
have smooth skin with small granular scales interspersed with larger tubercles.
This will help distinguish them from
Desert Banded Geckos, right,
which have smooth skin with small granular scales but no larger tubercles.
   
       
Difference Between Males and Females
lizard lizard lizard  
Males have spurs at the base of the tail. Females do not. Compare
 
       
Habitat
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Bernardino County Habitat, Imperial County desert
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Variable Groundsnake Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat
Habitat, Riverside County Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, Imperial County
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat  
Habitat, Imperial County Habitat, Riverside County
Habitat, Imperial County  
       
Short Videos
Desert Banded Gecko
Desert Banded Gecko    
A night shot of a gecko crawling
slowly and waving its tail.
Three Desert Banded Geckos
out at night in the desert.
   
     
Description
 
Size
2 - 3 inches long from snout to vent (5.1 - 7.6 cm).

Appearance
A small, slender lizard with movable eyelids and vertical pupils.
The head is triangular in shape and wider than the neck, and is usually spotted.
The skin is soft with fine granular scales (without tubercles).
Toes are long and slender.
Tail is constricted at the base.

Color and Pattern
Color pattern is variable, with a pale yellow, pink, or light gray background, and tan or brown bands on the body and tail.
These bands may be broken into blotches, especially on older adults.
The width of the dark bands is equal to or less than the width of the light areas.
Male / Female Differences
Males have spurs on each side of the base of the tail.
Young
Juveniles tend to have more prominent unbroken bands.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Active at night, hiding in burrows or under surface objects during daylight.
Hibernates through the winter (generally November to February).
Curls the tail up and waves it back and forth off the ground when stalking prey.
When grasped, this gecko may emit a short squeak. Listen.
Defense
When threatened, it may drop its tail to distract a predator.
The tail will grow back, typically without the banding pattern matching the rest of the lizard's body.
Diet and Feeding
A variety of small invertebrates.
Breeding
Breeding occurs during April and May. Females lay 1 or two eggs from May to September, which hatch in 45 days.

Geographical Range
In California the subspecies Coleonyx variegatus variegatus is found in the deserts - on the eastern edge of the Peninsular ranges from the Baja California border east to the Colorado River, north on the northern side of the Transverse ranges and along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bishop area. Ranges inland through the Kern River Canyon to Granite Station in the western Sierra foothills and eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley.

Beyond California this lizard ranges into the southern tip of Nevada, across the western half of Arizona, into northeastern Baja California and mainland Mexico.

The species C. variegatus ranges through most of Southern California north into the extreme southern part of Nevada and the southwestern tip of Utah, across northwest, southwest, and southeast Arizona into the bootheel of New Mexico, and south down the western edge of the state of Sonora, Mexico and down the entire length of Baja California.

The northernmost Inyo County record west of the White Mountains and a first Mono County record for this lizard were documented in the southeastern Chalfant Valley in 2016. Herpetological Review 47(2), 2016
Full Species Range Map 
Elevational Range
From below sea level to around 5,000 ft. (1,520 m). 

Habitat
Arid areas including creosote flats, sagebrush desert, pinon-juniper woods, chaparral. Prefers rocky areas, but may occur in rockless ares such as sand dunes.

Notes on Taxonomy
The species Coleonyx variegatus consists of four supspecies in the US, (two in California) with two more in Mexico.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Coleonyx variegatus variegatus -
Desert Banded Gecko (Stebbins 1966)
Coleonyx variegatus
- Variegated Gecko (Smith 1946)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Gekkonidae (Eublepharidae) Geckos Boulenger, 1883
Genus Coleonyx Banded Geckos Gray, 1845
Species variegatus Western Banded Gecko (Baird, 1859 “1858”)
Subspecies

variegatus Desert Banded Gecko (Baird, 1859)
Original Description
Coleonyx variegatus - (Baird, 1858) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 10, p. 254

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Coleonyx - Greek: koleos - sheath and onyx - nail, talon or claw - refers to sheathed claws
variegatus
- Latin - of different colors - refers to contrasting elements of color pattern

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Lizards
Peninsular Banded Gecko - C. switaki
San Diego Banded Gecko - C. v. abbottii

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Lemm, Jeffrey. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region (California Natural History Guides). University of California Press, 2006.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Jones, Lawrence, Rob Lovich, editors. Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009.

Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN


 

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