Close-up showing the orange coloring
behind front legs and the black mark in front of the front legs that is usually found on Sagebrush Lizards.
Sagebrush Lizards have overlapping scales with sharp spines on the back.
Habitat , 6,200 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Habitat, 5,600 ft. San Diego County
Habitat, San Jacinto Mountains,
Habitat, 9,600 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Habitat, 8,500 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
Habitat, 6,800 ft. San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino County
A lizard runs over the rocks and does territorial push-up displays.
1.9 - 2.9 inches long from snout to vent (4.8 - 7.3 cm). (Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
A small lizard with small keeled and pointed scales overlapping on the upper surfaces of the body and limbs.
These scales are not as large as they are on other lizards of the genus Sceloporus.
The gular fold is incomplete.
The scales on the back of the thigh are mostly granular, not keeled (as they are on the Western Fence Lizard.)
Color and Pattern
Color is gray or brown with dark blotches or irregular bands on the body and tail and light stripes along the sides and upper sides at the edge of the back.
There is usually a bar of black on the shoulder and rusty coloring on the armpits and sometimes on the sides of the body and the neck.
Unlike the Western Fence Lizard - Sceloporus occidentalis, there is normally no yellow coloring on the rear of the limbs.
Male / Female Differences
Males have a patch of blue color on each side of the belly and on the throat.
Blue patches usually meet across the belly and touch the throat coloring.
The underside of the tail and legs is also often blue.
Male postanal scales are enlarged, and the base of the tail is broader than on the female.
The throat is light blue mottled with white spots.
Sometimes the blue patch is reduced or even absent.
Some males may develop bright orange breeding coloring.
Females have little or no blue on the belly, but belly may be dark. When breeding, females may develop orange coloring on the sides and neck and yellow underneath.
Young lizards have little or no blue on the belly.
Active from March or April to September or October depending on the weather.
Hibernates during winter in rock cracks and mammal burrows.
A good climber and jumper, able to quickly jump from rock to rock.
Lives mostly on the ground near bushes, logs, rocks, or brush piles.
Often observed basking on rocks and logs.
Escapes danger by running into rocks, rodent burrows, or brush or climbs up trees or rock outcrops.
Males defend their territory with head-bobbing and by standing tall and displaying the blue belly and throat.
Diet and Feeding
Eats a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, spiders, and beetles.
Breeds from May to July.
1 or 2 clutches of 2 - 7 eggs from June to August.
hatch in August and September.
Lives in shrublands such as chaparral, manzanita and ceanothus, as well as open pine and Douglas Fir forests, mainly in the mountains.
Prefers open areas with scattered low bushes and lots of sun.
Often occurs with the Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis.
The species Sceloporus graciosus occurs in California, Eastern oregon, central Washington, southern Idaho parts of Montana and North Dakota, in much of Wyoming, Utah, western Colorado, northwest New Mexico, northern Arizona, and in Baja California del Norte, Mexico.
This subspecies (or species) is found in the Transverse and Peninsular mountains of southern California, and in the Sierra San Pedro Martir of northern Baja California.
Although the sagebrush lizard is not usually shown ranging in the Santa Ana Mountains, there is a museum specimen from the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County, so I show this subspecies as occurring there on my map.
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM) - Vertebrate specimens
LACM Herps 95767 Reptilia: Sceloporus graciosus United States, California, Orange: "2.1 mi. NE Ranger Station on Ortega Hwy, 12 mi. NE San Juan Capistrano Mission, "Lazy W" 1966
Another museum specimen labeled S. graciosus was examined 9/14 and identified as S. occidentalis:
University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute - Herpetology Collection
KU KUH 40390 Reptilia: Sceloporus graciosus USA, California, Orange: 2.8 mi N Laguna Beach 1955)
The species Sceloporus graciosus is found at elevations of
500 ft. to around 10,500 ft. (150 - 3,200 m) (Stebbins 2003).
S. g. vandenburgianus is found from at least 4,500 ft. (2926 - 1371 m) to at least 9,600 ft.
In 1991, Collins (1991,Herpetol. Rev. 22: 42–43) proposed recognizing this taxon as a species, Sceloporus vandenburgianus. In 1997, Wiens & Reeder (1997 Herpetological Monographs 11: 1-101) followed Collins’ proposal but pointed out the morphological similarity and geographic proximity of S. vandenburgianus to populations of Sceloporus graciosus gracilis. In response, many researchers are awaiting further studies before elevating this taxon to full species.
"Chan et al. (2013, Zootaxa 3664: 312–320) found that the currently recognized subspecies of S. graciosus are incongruent with mitochondrial haplotype clades, which often exhibit relatively deep divergences between geographically proximate samples, and that S. graciosus is paraphyletic relative to S. arenicolus. Although these findings suggest that S. graciosus is in need of taxonomic revision, those authors did not propose any taxonomic changes."
(SSAR Herpetological Circular No. 43, 2017)
Sceloporus - Greek -skelos leg and porus - pore or opening - refers to the femoral pores on hind legs
graciosus - Latin - graciosus graceful - "This small and graceful species..." vandenburgianus- honors Van Denburgh, John
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.
Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.
Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.
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.
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.
Joseph Grinnell and Charles Lewis Camp. A Distributional List of the Amphibians and Reptiles of California. University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 17, No. 10, pp. 127-208. July 11, 1917.
The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the October 2021 California "Special Animals List" and the October 2021 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals. You can check the link to see if there are more recent lists.
If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.
This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.