CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Identifying Lizards Found in California - an Expanded Photo Index

This is a species list with photos, range maps, and information to help identify every kind of lizard established in California.

Some species are variable in appearance, and many lizards can change color, so be aware that not every possible variation of every species is shown here. Pictures of juveniles are shown here if I have them. Besides being smaller, they sometimes look considerably different from adults.
 
Scroll down the page and look at the pictures to find the lizard you are looking for.

Since this page contains a lot of information that can be overwhelming at first, you might want to look at these simpler pages first:

Commonly Encountered California Lizards - This shows a few species that I have been most often asked to identify.
Photo Index of California Lizards - This shows only one picture of each kind of lizard found in the state.
California Lizards Range Maps - You can look here to more easily find what lizards occur in the area where the lizard you want to identify was observed.
Lizards found in coastal Southern California
Lizards found in the Bay Area
Lizards found in the Sacramento Area
 
Click on a picture for a larger view
When you find a lizard that looks right, check the range map on the far right to confirm that the lizard is found at the location where you found it.

(You can enlarge a range map by clicking on it.) If your lizard is not found in the right location, keep on searching - lizards don't stray very far from their range, though they do sometimes show up in areas not yet marked on the map, and sometimes they are transported outside their range.

Click the Latin name link to go to the species page with more pictures and a description of the lizard and its behavior that can help with the ID.

There are several species of non-native lizards that have been released into the state and have successfully established populations.
These established non-native lizards are shown at the bottom of the page.

If you don't find your lizard anywhere here, you can look at these pages:
Non-native Lizards That are Possibly Established but have not been officially documented;
Some of the more common Escaped Pet Lizards that I have been asked to identify that were found at large in the state.


If you are unable to make an identification, email me, inlcude a picture if possible and tell me the city where the lizard was seen, and I can probably identify it for you.  If you find a species of lizard that definitely is not shown on this list, I'm especially interested in seeing pictures of it.
 
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The lizards on this page are grouped by genus, then species, then subspecies.
(Species in a genus are related and tend to be similar in appearance,)

19 genera of native lizards are found in California along with 8 genera of non-native lizards. (Each genus includes a Common Name and a Latin Name.)
If you have an idea of what kind of lizard you are looking for, you can go directly to the genus by following these links:

Western Alligator Lizards - genus Elgaria
North American Legless Lizards - genus Anniella
Collared Lizards - genus Crotaphytus
Leopard Lizards - genus Gambelia
Banded Geckos - genus Coleonyx
Leaf-toed Geckos - genus Phyllodactylus
Gila Monsters - genus Heloderma
Desert Iguanas - genus Dipsosaurus
Chuckwallas - genus Sauromalus
Zebra-tailed Lizards - genus Callisaurus 
Banded Rock Lizards - genus Petrosaurus
Horned Lizards - genus Phrynosoma
Spiny Lizards - genus Sceloporus
Fringe-toed Lizards - genus Uma
Tree and Brush Lizards - genus Urosaurus
Common Side-blotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana
Toothy Skinks - genus Plestiodon
Whiptails - genus Aspidoscelis
Night Lizards - genus Xantusia

Established Non-Native Lizards

Anoles - genus Anolis
House Geckos - genus - Hemidactylus
Wall Geckos - genus Tarentola
Whiptails - genus Aspidoscelis
Afro-Malagasy mabuyas (Skinks) - Trachylepis
Trioceros - Chameleons - Trioceros
Wall Lizard - Podarcis
 


  Western Alligator Lizards
- genus Elgaria

lizard Alligator Lizards are fairly large, slow-moving, diurnal lizards. They are often found around suburban houses, yards, gardens, and garages, as well as in natural areas.
Mostly seen on the ground, but sometimes seen climbing on bushes, trees, or even screen doors.
Small juveniles look much different from adults. During the spring breeding season, it is not uncommon to see one lizard biting the neck of another lizard, sometimes holding on for hours.
Large adults can grow up to 7 inches long, not including the tail, and up to 16 inches long including the tail (17.8 - 40.6 cm).

Three species of Western Alligator Lizards are found in California: Northern Alligator Lizard, with four subspecies; Southern Alligator Lizard, with two subspecies; and Panamint Alligator Lizard.
Unfortunately, the species are similar in appearance and cannot always be easily identified from a distance in areas where two species overlap. You will need to get a close-up look at the eyes,
and sometimes you need to have the lizard in hand to look at the underside, but be careful, they can bite hard.
More About Alligator Lizard Identification
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying an
Alligator Lizard
California Alligator Lizard Oregon Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard lizard lizard lizard San Diego Alligator Lizards
Body is about 7 inches long (17.8 cm) not including the tail which can be longer than the body. The tail is often broken off and re-grows differently from the original as seen here. The body is large and robust, usually with distinct markings on the back.
Unbroken tails can be very long.
Juveniles look much different than adults. The back is unmarked or only faintly marked. They are often confused for a different species. Large keeled scales on back Long alligator-like snout There is a longitudinal fold on the
lower sides of the body.
Spring courtship behavior
© Joy Lutz-Mizar
 
  
Northern Alligator Lizard - Elgaria coerulea - Four subspecies are found in California

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Northern Alligator Lizard
lizard lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard    
Dark marks or stripes run lengthwise between the rows of scales on the belly.
Compare
with the dark belly stripes of the Southern Alligator Lizard (below) found in the center of the scales.
The eye around the pupil is dark compared with the lighter eye of the Southern Alligator Lizard (below).

Juveniles are small with smooth-looking skin like a skink with more of a solid-looking bronze or brown color than adults.    
               
San Francisco Alligator Lizard
Elgaria coerulea
coerulea
San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard Northern Alligator Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult Juvenile Underside Found in the red area
               
Sierra Alligator Lizard
Elgaria coerulea
palmeri
v Sierra Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard Sierra Alligator Lizard Northern Alligator Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult Juvenile Underside Found in the orange area
               
Northwestern Alligator Lizard
Elgaria coerulea
principis
Northwestern Alligator Lizard Northwestern Alligator Lizard Northwestern Alligator Lizard Northwestern Alligator Lizard Northern Alligator Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult
Adult Adult  © Alan Barron Juvenile Underside Found in the bright purple area
               
Shasta Alligator Lizard
Elgaria coerulea
shastensis

Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard Shasta Alligator Lizard Northern Alligator Lizards California Range Map
Adult female Adult Some adult males have bright yellow
backs and bellies with blue-gray heads.
© Gene Sederholm
Adult Juvenile Underside Found in the dark blue area
 
  
 
Southern Alligator Lizard - Elgaria multicarinata -Two subspecies are found in California

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Southern Alligator Lizard
lizard lizard California Alligator Lizard © Jay KellerSan Diego Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard    
Dark marks or stripes run lengthwise through the center of the scales on
w the belly.
Compare with the dark belly stripes of the Northern Alligator Lizard (above) which are found between the scales.
The eye around the pupil is light compared with the the darker eye found on the Northern Alligator Lizard (above).
Juveniles are small with smooth-looking skin like a skink and more of a solid bronze or brown color than adults.    
 
Forest Alligator Lizard

(California Alligator Lizard)

Elgaria multicarinata
multicarinata
California Alligator Lizard Oregon Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard Southern Alligator Lizards Caifornia Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult Juvenile Underside Found in the red area
 
Woodland Alligator Lizard

(San Diego Alligator Lizard)

Elgaria multicarinata
webbii
San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard San Diego Alligator Lizard California Alligator Lizard Southern Alligator Lizards Caifornia Range Map
Adult Adult Adult  Adult Juvenile   © Jay Keller Underside Found in the dark blue area
 
Panamint Alligator Lizard
Elgaria panamintina
Panamint Alligator Lizard Panamint Alligator Lizard Panamint Alligator Lizard Panamint Alligator Lizard Panamint Alligator Lizard Panamint Alligator Lizard Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult   © Adam Clause. Juvenile © Brad Alexander Underside Found in the red area
 

  North American Legless Lizards
- genus Anniella

California Legless Lizard Small, slender, smooth-skinned lizards without legs, that mostly live in areas with soft sandy soil or abundant leaf litter into which they bury themselves. Often mistaken for snakes or large worms (but they have eyelids and detachable tails.)
Adults grow to about 7 inches in length, including the tail (17.8 cm).

5 species are found in California (with a 6th form found along Monterey Bay that is often treated as a subspecies): Temblor Legless Lizard, Big Spring Legless Lizard, Bakersfield Legless Lizard, San Diegan Legless Lizard, and Northern Legless Lizard (including the Black Legless Lizard.)

The best way to identify the species is to use the range map, but some of them can be identified by the dark stripes on the length of the body or by the color of the underside,

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Legless Lizard
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard    
Slender body, about 7 inches
long when adult.
Unlike every other form of lizard in the state, legless lizards do not have legs. Eyelids are present, but difficult to
see unless the lizard blinks.
The tail can be broken off,
unlike the tail of a snake.
The body is covered with
smooth cycloid scales.
   
 
Temblor Legless Lizard
Anniella alexanderae
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult © Alex Krohn Adult A mid-dorsal black stripe one-third scale wide and lateral black stripes one-third scale wide are present. The only species of Legless Lizard
with a light gray underside.
Found in the bright green area
 
Big Spring Legless Lizard
Anniella campi
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard
California Legless Lizard
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult © William Flaxington Adult  © Chad Lane Adult  © Chad Lane Adult © William Flaxington
The only species of Legless Lizard to have double, dark lateral stripes extending from head to tail.
The underside is yellow
© William Flaxington



found in the pink area
 
Bakersfield Legless Lizard
Anniella grinnelli
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult  © Ryan Sikola A black mid-dorsal stripe 1/2 scale wide and lateral black stripes one scale wide are present from head to tail.
The only species of Legless Lizard with an grayish red or purple underside. Found in the dark blue area
 
San Diegan Legless Lizard
Anniella stebbinsi
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult © Chad Lane Adult A black mid-dorsal stripe less than one scale wide and single lateral black stripes one scale wide are present from head to tail. The underside is yellow
© Adam G. Clause
Found in the orange areas
 
Northern Legless Lizard
Anniella pulchra
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult © Brad Alexander Adult © Ryan Sikola Typically, with a dark line on the back and several dark stripes along the sides,
but variations occur.
The underside is yellow
© Robert Maurer Jr.
Found in the red areas
 
Black Legless Lizard
Anniella pulchra (nigra)
(dark phase)
California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard California Legless Lizard Legless Lizards California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Juvenile - silvery in color This subspecies can be identified by the solid dark color on the back and top of the sides. The underside is yellow
© Chad Lane
Found in the yellow/black area at the edge of the Monterey Bay
 
 

   Collared Lizards
- genus Crotaphytus

Great Basin Collared Lizard Medium-sized, robust, fast-moving diurnal desert lizards, typically seen on top of rocks. The head is large with dark markings around the neck. The tail is long and slightly flattened vertically. The rear legs are large.

Adults are almost 4 and a half inches long, not including the tail, or over a foot long including the tail (11.2 cm or 30.5 cm). Color and pattern varies between sexes.

Two similar-looking species are found in California: Great Basin Collared Lizard and Baja California Collared Lizard.
They are not found in the same areas, so you an use the range maps to identify the species.

More About Collared Lizard Identification.


Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Collard Lizard
Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard    
Large wide body is about 4.5
inches long (11.4 cm).
Males have dark markings on
the throat and belly.
Large head, narrow neck.
Dark markings around the neck. Large rear legs.
Tail is slightly flattened vertically.
Typically seen perched on a
rock in the sun.
Mostly granular scales    
 
Great Basin Collared Lizard
Crotaphytus bicinctores
Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard California Range Map
Adult male Adult male - throat is dark Adult female Adult male  © Mike Ryan Adult female red breeding color Juvenile Found in the red areas
 
Baja California Collared Lizard
Crotaphytus vestigium
Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard Baja California Collared Lizard California Habitat
Adult male Adult female - throat is not dark Adult female Adult female with red breeding color Adult male   © Will Wells Juvenile Found in the red area
 

  Leopard Lizards
- genus Gambelia

Long-nosed Leopard Lizard A large robust, fast-moving lizard. Found in open dry areas and deserts.
Nearly 6 inches long, not including the tail or about 12 inches long if you measure the tail (15.2 cm or 30.5 cm).

Three species of Leopard Lizard are found in California but they do not overlap in range except in on tiny area: Cope's Leopard Lizard, Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard, and Long-nosed Leopard Lizard.
Use the range maps to identify the species.

More About Leopard Lizard Identification
.

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Leopard Lizard
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard    
Body is about 6 inches long.
Tail is about the same.
Small spots on back in light phase Large blotches in dark phase
© Debbie Frost
Breeding females have
red or orange markings.
Smooth granular scales on the body    
 
Cope's Leopard Lizard
Gambelia copei
Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard Cope's Leopard Lizard California Range Map
Adult female with red breeding color. Adult female Adult male   © Rob Schell Adult male   © Rob Schell Adult male  © Stuart Young Underside of breeding female. Found in the red area
 
Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard
Gambelia sila
Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard
Light phase adult male © Patrick Briggs Adult male - short nose Dark phase adult male Adult female with red breeding color. Adult © Chad Lane Hatchling © Jon Hirt Found in the red area
 
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Gambelia wislizenii
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Range Map
Adult Adult - long nose Adult Adult female with red breeding color. Adult female with red breeding color.
© Adam Clause
Juvenile Found in the red areas
 

   Banded Geckos
- genus Coleonyx

Desert Banded Gecko Small, smooth-skinned nocturnal lizards with large fat tails, usually seen active at night, mostly in desert or open dry areas.

Adult body size is 2-3 inches long (5 - 7.6 cm), not including the tail, and 4 to 5 inches long with the tail (10 - 12.7 cm).

Two species are found in California, with some overlap in range: Peninsula Banded Gecko, and Western Banded Gecko. They can be separated by size, appearance, and a close look at the skin.

The Western Banded Gecko has two subspecies which can mostly be separated by range. There are some other details which can help to identify the subspecies here: Western Banded Gecko ID
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Banded Gecko
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko lizard Peninsular Banded Gecko Gecko Skin
Small body, 2-3 inches long (5 - 7.6 cm). Tail is fat and constricted at the base. Triangular head, wider than the neck.
Moveable eyelids with vertical pupils. Males have spurs at the base of the tail. Females do not have spurs. Peninsula Banded Gecko -
Smooth skin with small granular scales interspersed with larger tubercles.
Desert Banded Gecko -
Smooth skin with small granular scales but no larger tubercles.
 
Peninsula Banded Gecko
Coleonyx switaki
Peninsular Banded Gecko Peninsular Banded Gecko Peninsular Banded Gecko Peninsular Banded Gecko Peninsular Banded Gecko Peninsular Banded Gecko California Range Map
Adult female Adult female Adult male Adult © Bruce Edley Adult © Stuart Young Hatchling © Jeff Nordland Found in the red area
 
 
  Western Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus - (Two subspecies are found in California)  (Identifying Western Banded Gecko Subspecies)

San Diego Banded Gecko
Coleonlyx variegatus
abbotti
San Diego Banded Gecko San Diego Banded Gecko San Diego Banded Gecko
San Diego Banded Gecko Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard San Diego Banded Gecko Western Banded Geckos California Range Map
Adult © Stuart Young Sub-adult Adult © Nathan Smith Adult © Stuart Young Adult Found in the dark blue area
 
Desert Banded Gecko
Coleonyx variegatus
variegatus
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Western Banded Geckos California Range Map
Adult Adult Adult Adult Rare, spotted individual. © Stuart Young
Juveniles have solid bands Found in the red area
 
           
  Leaf-toed Geckos - genus Phyllodactylus

Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko© Stuart Young Small, smooth-skinned nocturnal lizards limited to rocky desert areas.

Adults grow up to 2.5 inches in length (6.35 cm) not including the tail.

One species is found in California. Its range overlaps the range of the Desert Banded Gecko, but the two species can be separated by appearance, by the toe tips, and by behavior -
this species is a rock-climbing specialist while the Western Banded Gecko is more terrestrial.

 
Peninsula Leaf-toed Gecko
Phyllodactylus nocticolus
Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko Range Map
Adult Large eyes with vertical pupils. Adult Adult © Stuart Young Body is small, up to 2.5 inches long. Toes have expanded tips Found in the red area
 

   Gila Monsters
- genus Heloderma

Banded Gila Monster Venomous and potentially dangerous.

A large thick-bodied lizard with very roughly-textured black and pink skin that appears beaded. Tails is short and fat.
Limited to only a few locations in the deserts.

Adult body is 9-14 inches long, not including the tail (22.9 - 35.6 cm).

One species is found in California but it is very rare in the state.

 
Gila Monster
Heloderma suspectum

Banded Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum
cinctum
Banded Gila Monster Banded Gila Monster Banded Gila Monster Gila Monster Banded Gila Monster Gila Monster Bande Gila Monster California Range Map
Arizona Adult Arizona Adult California adult © Andrea Reddick Large body - up to 14 inches long Arizona Adult Nevada Juvenile © Kim Lewis Found in the red areas
 

  Desert Iguanas - genus Dipsosaurus

Northern Desert Iguana A large diurnal lizard with a long thick tail and a small head with a blunt nose, a dark and light pattern on the back and tail, and a row of enlarged scales on the middle of the back form a small crest.
Found only in the deserts where they often shelter in holes in the ground.

Adults are 4 to 5.75 inches long, not including the tail (10 - 14.6 cm).

One species is found in California.
 
Desert Iguana
Dipsosaurus dorsalis

Northern Desert Iguana
Dipsosaurus dorsalis
dorsalis
Northern Desert Iguana Northern Desert Iguana Northern Desert Iguana Northern Desert Iguana Northern Desert Iguana Northern Desert Iguana California Range Map
Adult Adult - notice the slight dorsal crest Adult Adult Body is up to 5.75 inches long
Juvenile Found in the red area
 

  Chuckwallas
- genus Sauromalus

Common Chuckwalla© Adam Clause

A large fat diurnal lizard with loose skin and a wide blunt-tipped tail.
Found only in the deserts. Usually seen on large rock outcrops where they hide in crevices.
Often seen eating vegetation, sometimes climbing on a bush to feed on the flowers.

Adults are 5 - 9 inches long, not including the tail (12.7 - 22.9 cm).

One species is found in California.

 
Common Chuckwalla
Sauromalus ater
Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla Common Chuckwalla California Range Map
Adult male. Body is large, up to
9 inches long.  © Andrew Borcher
Adult Adult females retain their juvenile banding pattern © Ryan Sikola Adult male Adult male Juveniles are banded with yellow markings © Jeremiah Easter Found in the red area
 

   Zebra-tailed Lizards - genus Callisaurus 

Northern Zebra-tailed Lizard

A pale thin fast-moving diurnal lizard with dark rings around a long thin tail.

Found only in the deserts, usually on the ground in open sandy areas, especially sandy washes.
Color and pattern varies between sexes.
Adults are about 3 - 4 inches long, not including the tail (7.6 - 10.2 cm).

One species is found in California.

 
Zebra-tailed Lizard
Callisaurus draconoides

Western Zebra-tailed Lizard

Callisaurus draconoides rhodostictus
Western Zebra-tailed Lizard Western Zebra-tailed Lizard Western Zebra-tailed Lizard Western Zebra-tailed Lizard Western Zebra-tailed Lizard Western Zebra-tailed Lizard California Range Map
Adult female Adult - showing fringed eyes
and ear opening
Adult female with breeding colors Adult male with breeding colors -
threat display © David Walton
Adult male with black bars and
colors on underside. © Jackson Shedd
The black and white striped tail
underside is a good identifier
Found in the red area
 
      
  Banded Rock Lizards - genus Petrosaurus

A medium-sized lizard with a black collar around the neck and a long thin tail.

Found only in rocky desert areas in the Peninsular Range mountains. Typically seen on large rock outcrops.

Adults are 3 - 4.5 inches long, not including the tail (7.6 - 11.4 cm).

One species is found in California.

 

Mearns' Rock Lizard
Petrosaurus mearnsi

Mearns' Rock Lizard
Petrosaurus mearnsi
mearnsi
Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Mearns' Rock Lizard Range Map
Adult body is 3 - 4.5 inches long Adult Adult Adult female with orange breeding color Adult   © Bruce Edley Hatchling Found in the red area
 

   Horned Lizards
- genus Phrynosoma

Southern Desert Horned Lizard A small flat-bodied lizard with a wide oval-shaped body, scattered enlarged pointed scales on the upper body and tail, and large horns on the head, except in the Pygmy Short-horned species. Typically found in open areas with loose soil that the lizards bury themselves in.

Adults range from 1.25 inches to 4.5 inches long, depending on the species, not including the tail (3.2 - 11.4 cm).

Four species are found in California. Blainville's Horned Lizard, Pygmy Short-horned Lizard, Flat-tailed Horned Lizard, and Desert Horned Lizard, with two subspecies. C
The species can easily be identified by looking at the range maps. There is no overlap in range.

More About Horned Lizard Identifiation
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Horned Lizard
Southern Desert Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard Pygmy Short-horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard fringe Great Basin Collared Lizard
Large rounded flat body Broad head with long horns
on three of four species.
Only the Pygmy Horned Lizard
has very small horns
Blainville's Horned Lizard body
is up to 4.5 inches long (11.4 cm)
The number of rows of fringed scales on the sides can help to differentiate Blainville's Horned Lizard from the Desert Horned Lizard. The size of the scales on the throat can help to differentiate Blainville's Horned Lizard from the Desert Horned Lizard. The body of a Horned Lizard is covered with small granular scales interspersed with larger pointed scales
 
Blainville's (Coast)
Horned Lizard

Phrynosoma blainvillii
Coast Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard fringe Coast Horned Lizard Coast Horned Lizard Range Map
Adult female Large horns on head Adult male Adult   © Jackson Shedd Two rows of fringed scales on the sides. Juvenile HIstorically found in the red areas
 
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Phrynosoma douglasii
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard Pygmy Short-horned Lizard Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard Pygmy Short-horned Lizard California Range Map
Adult The horns are small and inconspicuous Adult Adult Adult Juvenile   © James R. Buskirk Found in the red area
 
Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma mcallii
Flat-tail Horned Lizard Flat-tail Horned Lizard Flat-tail Horned Lizard Flat-tail Horned Lizard Flat-tail Horned Lizard Flat-tail Horned Lizard Range Map
Adult Large horns on head Note the large flat tail Adult Adult   © Patrick Briggs Juvenile   © Bruce Edley Found in the red area
 
 
   Desert Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma platyrhinos - (Two subspecies are found in California)

Southern Desert
Horned Lizard

Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum
Southern Desert Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Desert Horned Lizards Range Map
Adult Large horns on head Adult Adult One row of fringed scales on the sides. Juvenile Found in the red area
 
Northern Desert
Horned Lizard

Phrynosoma platyrhinos platyrhinos
Northern Desert Horned Lizard Northern Desert Horned Lizard Northern Desert Horned Lizard Southern Desert Horned Lizard Northern Desert Horned Lizard Desert Horned Lizards Range Map
Adult Large horns on head Adult © Debra Frost Adult   © Debra Frost One row of fringed scales on the sides. Juvenile Found in the dark blue area
 

   Spiny Lizards - genus Sceloporus

Coast Range Fence Lizard These are the common lizards often seen in yards and gardens as well as in undeveloped places.
Spiny Lizards are small to large lizards with heads larger than the neck, rounded or slightly flattened bodies, long slender fingers and toes, and keeled scales with sharp spines. Males of most species have patches of blue color on the throat and underside. Commonly called "Blue-bellies" or "Swifts." Color and pattern varies between sexes.

Adults of the three large Spiny Lizard species measure from 4.6 - 5.7 inches long, not including the tail (11.7 - 14.2 cm).
Adults of the two small species of Spiny Lizards measure up to 3.5 inches long, not including the tail (8.9 cm).

Five species are found in California: Desert Spiny Lizard, Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard, Common Sagebrush Lizard (with 3 subspecies), and Western Fence Lizard (with six subspecies).
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Spiny Lizard
Coast Range Fence Lizard © Bo Zaremba
desert spiny lizard
S. magister scales lizard skin lizard skin Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Spiny Lizards are good climbers, typically seen on walls, fences, trees, and rocks. Spiny lizards have large overlapping scales on the back with sharp spines on them. These spines are not always apparent when seen from a distance.  
 
Desert Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus magister
desert spiny lizard desert spiny lizard desert spiny lizard desert spiny lizard desert spiny lizard desert spiny lizard Desert Spiny Lizard Range Map
Adult male. This is a large species of Spiny Lizard, growing up to 5.7 inches long, not including the tail (14.2 cm).
© Terry Goyan
Adult male Adult female Adult male in defensive stance
© Steve Sumioka
Adult female with red breeding color on head © Jim Brock Juvenile Found in the red area
 
Granite Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus orcutti
Male Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Female Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Granite Spiny Lizard Range Map
Adult male. Males can show bright blue-green colors and purple on the back.
This is a large species of Spiny Lizard, growing up to 4.6 inches long, not including the tail (11.7 cm).
© Jason Jones
Adult female Adult male - note purple patch on back
© Amber Carson
Adult female - the pattern is more
banded than on males
Adult female Juvenile - note the more distinct banded pattern © Marisue Crystal Found in the red area
 
Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard
Sceloporus uniformis
yellow-backed spiny lizard yellow-backed spiny lizard yellow-backed spiny lizard yellow-backed spiny lizard yellow-backed spiny lizard Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard Range Map
Adult female. This is a large species of Spiny Lizard, growing up to 5.7 inches long, not including the tail (14.2 cm). Adult female Adult female Adult male defensive display
© Steve Bledsoe
Adult male  © Patrick Briggs Juvenile Found in the red areas
 

  Comparison of Western Fence Lizards and Common Sagebrush Lizards

   
fence lizard and sagebrush lizard comparison
Western Fence Lizards are the lizard most people are likely to see in California as they are common and abundant in populated areas as well as in natural areas.

Common Sagebrush lizards are typically found at higher elevations in less-populated areas than Western Fence Lizards, but in some places sagebrush lizards occur with fence lizards and this can make identification difficult since both species look similar and most adults are a similar size.

Adults of both species grow up to 3.5 inches long, not including the tail (8.9 cm).

Below are some characteristics that can help to tell the two species apart.  Here is more information about comparing fence lizards with sagebrush lizards
   
Left - female Common Sagebrush Lizard
Right - male Western Fence Lizard
           
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Common Sagebrush Lizard
Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard fence lizard and sagebrush lizard comparison    
A black bar on the shoulder Rusty coloring in the armpits Small granular scales
on the rear of the thighs.
No yellow/orange coloring underneath.
Adult males have blue under the throat and on the sides of the belly. The Common Sagebrush Lizard (Left) has smaller keeled scales on the back than the Western Fence Lizard (Right).
© Patrick Briggs
   
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Western Fence Lizard
San Joaquin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard fence lizard and sagebrush lizard comparison    
No black bar on the shoulder No rusty coloring in the armpits Llarger keeled scales
on the rear of the thighs.
Yellow/orange coloring underneath,
Adult males have blue under the throat and on the sides of the belly. The Western Fence Lizard (Right) has larger keeled scales on the back than
the Common Sagebrush Lizard (Left).
© Patrick Briggs
   
 
 
   Common Sagebrush Lizard - Sceloporus graciosus - (Three subspecies are found in California)

Western Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus gracilis
Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Western Sagebrush Lizard Common Sagebrush Lizard California Range Map
Adult female Adult male Adult male Adult male Adult female Juvenile Found in the orange areas
 
Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus
Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Northern Sagebrush Lizard Common Sagebrush Lizard California Range Map
Adult female Adult male Adult male Adult female Adult male Juvenile Found in the red areas
 
Southern Sagebrush Lizard
Sceloporus graciosus vandenburgianus
Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Southern Sagebrush Lizard Common Sagebrush Lizard California Range Map
Adult male Adult female Adult female Adult female Adult male Adult female with orange breeding color.
© Scott Shoemaker
Found in the dark blue areas
 
 
  Western Fence Lizard - Sceloporus occidentalis - (Six subspecies are found in California)

Island Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis becki

Island Fence Lizard Island Fence Lizard Island Fence Lizard Island Fence Lizard Island Fence Lizard Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult male. This subpecies (maybe a full species) is found only on the northern Channel Islands. Adult male Adult male Adult male Adult male Juvenile, Santa Cruz Island Found in the bright green areas
 
San Joaquin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis biseriatus
San Joaquin Fence Lizard San Joaquin Fence Lizard San Joaquin Fence Lizard San Joaquin Fence Lizard San Joaquin Fence Lizard San Joaquin Fence Lizards Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult male. This subspecies is found mostly in the southern Central Valley Adult male  © Patrick Briggs Adult female Adult male  © Patrick Briggs Adult male, front
Adult female, back
Juvenile Found in the bright blue area
 
Coast Range Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii
Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Coast Range Fence Lizard Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult female. This subspecies is found in the coastal region from Sonoma County to Ventura County.
Adult male Adult male Adult female Adult male Juvenile Found in the dark blue area
 
Great Basin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis longipes
Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard
Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Great Basin Fence Lizard Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult male. This subspecies is found in coastal Southern California, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the desert regions. Adult male Adult male Adult male Adult female  © John Sullivan Juvenile

Found in the orange areas
 
Northwestern Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis occidentalis
fence lizard with ticks Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard Northwestern Fence Lizard Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult male. This subspecies is found in much of northern California. Adult male Adult male Adult female Adult female Juvenile Found in the red area
 
Sierra Fence Lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis taylori
Sierra Fence Lizard Sierra Fence Lizard Sierra Fence Lizard Sierra Fence Lizard Sierra Fence Lizard Western Fence Lizards California Range Map
Adult. This subspecies is found only at high elevations in the central Sierra Nevada mountains. Adult Adult Adult male Adult female Males have bright blue coloring underneath  © Patrick Briggs Found in the violet area
 

  Fringe-toed Lizards
- genus Uma

A flat-bodied, smooth-skinned lizard that only inhabits desert areas of loose wind-blown sand. 
Approximately 5 inches long, not including the tail, and almost 10 inches long including the tail (12.7 - 25.4 cm).

Three species are found in California: Coachella Fringe-toed Lizard, Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard, and Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard. There is no overlap in range, so you can use the range maps to identify the species.

More information about Fringe-toed Lizard Identification

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Fringe-toed Lizard
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Wide flat pale body, with a pattern of fine brown and black markings. Pattern helps a lizard to blend into its background of loose sand. Fringes on toes of rear foot to keep them from sinking into fine wind-blown sand.

Typically seen basking on wind-blown sand dunes, running away quickly and often diving into the sand to hide. Smooth skin with granular scales.  
 
Coachella Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma inornata
Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Range Map
Adult. This species is found only in the Coachella Valley. © William Flaxington Adult male Adult Adult male Adult  © Bon Terra Consulting Adult male Found in the red area
 
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma notata
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Range Map
Adult male. This species is found only in the Sonoran Desert in Imperial and San Diego Counties. Adult male Adult male Adult male  © Patrick Briggs Adult male Adult male Found in the red areas
 
Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard
Uma scoparia
Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard Coachella Fringe-toed Lizard Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard Mohave Fringe-toed Lizard range map
Adult male. This species is found only in the Mojave Desert. Adult male Adult  © Zachary Cava Adult male Adult Adult male Found in the red area
 

   Tree and Brush Lizards - genus Urosaurus

Baja California Brush Lizard
Small, slim-bodied climbing lizards, similar to Spiny Lizards but without the spiny scales and with a fold on the throat. Found mostly in the deserts.
As their name indicates, they are usually seen on trees and in brush, but they can often be seen in brushy areas basking on rocks.

Three species are found in California: Long-tailed Brush Lizard, Small-scaled Lizard, and Ornate Tree Lizard. They can be difficult to tell apart, but the location can help in most cases. You might need to get a close-up look and observe the scales in the middle of the back on lizards near the Colorado River.
They are most likely to be confused with Side-blotched lizards as they are similar in size and occur in similar habitat.

Tree and Brush Lizard Species Identification

 
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Urosaurus graciosus

Western Long-tailed
Brush Lizard

Urosaurus graciosus
graciosus
Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Long-tailed Brush Lizard Range Map
Adult, Adults get up to 2.6 inches long, (6.6 cm) not including the tail, which can be more than 5 inches long (12.7 cm). Adult male Adult female Adult male underside Adult with very long unbroken tail Wide band of enlarged weekly-keeled scales on the back is not split in the center by a band of smaller scales. Found in the red areas
 
Small-scaled Lizard
(Black-tailed Brush Lizard)
Urosaurus microscutatus
Baja California Brush Lizard Baja California Brush Lizard Baja California Brush Lizard Baja California Brush Lizard Baja California Brush Lizard
Baja California Brush Lizard Baja California Brush Lizard California Range Map
Adult female. Adults get up to 1.5 inches long, not including the tail (5.1 cm). Adult female Adult female Adult male display, showing orange under throat and blue on belly. Adult male, with black tail A band of slightly-enlarged scales on the middle of the back are not split in the center by a band of smaller scales.
Found in the red area
 
Ornate Tree Lizard
Urosaurus ornatus

Colorado River Tree Lizard

Urosaurus ornatus
symmetricus
Colorado River Tree Lizard Colorado River Tree Lizard Colorado River Tree Lizard Colorado River Tree Lizard Colorado River Tree Lizard Colorado River Tree Lizard Range Map
Adult. Adults grow up to 2.25 inches long (5.7 cm), not including the tail, which can be about 4 inches long (10.2 cm). Adult female Adult female Adult © Jeff & lynda Mintz Adult © William Flaxington Wide scales on the back are split in the center by a large band of smaller scales. Found in the red areas
 

   Common Side-blotched Lizard
- Uta stansburiana - (Two subspecies in California)

Western Side-blotched Lizard A very small smooth-skinned lizard typically with a dark spot behind the front legs. Most common in open dry areas. Not common in suburban yards outside of the deserts. Color and pattern varies between sexes.
Males often with blue on the back and bright orange or yellow on the throat - colors not always apparent when seen at a distance.

Females are less colorful with a more defined pattern on the back, sometimes with chevrons or light stripes.

Adults are 1.5 - 2.5 inches long, not including the tail (3.8 - 6.3 cm).

Two subspecies of Common Side-blotched Lizards are found in California. They are very similar in appearance, but the Nevada Side-blotched Lizard usually has a more reduced, often uniform pattern consisting of mostly scattered light and dark spotting.

The best thing to do is check the range map to find out which one is in your area. The only area where there may be some confusion is in the Owens Valley where the two subspecies come into contact.
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Side-blotched Lizard
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizards Nevada Side-blotched Lizard Nevada Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard
The "side blotch" - a dark mark on the sides behind the front legs that gives this species its common name, is more well-defined on males. Fold around the throat - not found on fence lizards or sagebrush lizards. Male throat color varies - yellow, blue, or orange. Males have blue marks on the back and sometimes bright orange and yellow on the sides. Small keeled scales on the back 
without spines.
 
Western Side-blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana
elegans
Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Western Side-blotched Lizard Side-blotched Lizards California Range Map
Adult male Adult female Adult female Adult male Adult female Juvenile © Patrick Randall Found in the red areas
 
Nevada Side-blotched Lizard
Uta stansburiana
nevadensis
Nevada Side-blotched Lizard Nevada Side-blotched Lizard Nevada Side-blotched Lizard Side-blotched Lizards California Range Map
Adult male
This subspecies has mostly
scattered light and dark spotting.
Adult male Adult male Adult male Adult with orange breeding color Juvenile Found in the dark blue areas
 

   Toothy Skinks
- genus Plestiodon

Skilton's Skink Skinks are small to medium-sized lizards with smooth shiny skin, small legs compared to other lizard species, and a long tapered tail that is sometimes blue or reddish.
Juveniles are similar to adults with a blue or pink tail. Juvenile Gilbert's Skinks also tend to have a striped pattern which fades on adults.
Found in a wide variety of habitats in most of the state excluding the deserts.

Two native species of skinks are found in California - the Western Skink, with two subspecies, and Gilbert's Skink, with four subspecies. There is some overlap in range.

Western Skinks grow up to 3.4 inches (8.6 cm) in length, not including the tail. Gilbert's Skinks are larger - up to 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) in length, not including the tail.

More Information on Identifying California Skinks
 
   Gilbert's Skink - Plestiodon gilberti - (Four subspecies in California)

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Gilbert's Skink
skink Variegated Skink skink skink skink Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Adult Gilbert's Skinks are brownish in color. Some adults retain some of their juvenile stripes. Body size is up to 4.5 inches in length (11.4 cm), without the tail. Juvenile Gilbert's Skinks have well-defined stripes and a blue or pink tail. During the breeding season, adult males develop reddish coloring on the head and tail. Body is covered with mooth shiny scales

 
 
Variegated Skink
Plestiodon gilberti
cancellosus
Variegated Skink Variegated Skink Variegated Skink Variegated Skink Variegated Skink Gilbert's Skinks Range Map
Adult Adult © Zach Lim
Adult. Some adults retain
the juvenile stripes.
Adult This subspecies has dark markings around the scales on the back which make it "variegated." Juveniles have dark and light stripes. Found in the orange area
 
Greater Brown Skink
Plestiodon gilberti
gilberti

Greater Brown Skink Greater Brown Skink Greater Brown Skink Greater Brown Skink Greater Brown Skink Gilbert's Skinks Range Map
Adult Adult Adult male with red breeding color. © Jonathan Hakim
Adult male with red breeding color.
Adult Juvenile with stripes and blue tail. Found in the dark blue area
 
Northern Brown Skink
Plestiodon gilberti
placerensis
Northern Brown Skink Northern Brown Skink Northern Brown Skink Northern Brown Skink Northern Brown Skink Gilbert's Skinks Range Map
Adult male with red breeding color. Adult   © Joshua L. Puhn Adult  © William Flaxington
Sub-adult © Connor Long
Juvenile with stripes and blue tail
Found in the purple area
 
Western Red-tailed Skink
Plestiodon gilberti
rubricaudatus
Gilbert's Skink Gilbert's Skink Gilbert's Skink Gilbert's Skink Gilbert's Skink Gilbert's Skinks Range Map
Adult Adult Breeding adult male  © Patrick Briggs Adult Adult Juvenile with stripes and pink tail Found in the red areas
 
 
   Western Skink - Plestiodon skiltonianus - (Two subspecies in California)

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Western Skink
Skilton's Skink Coronado Skink skink Skilton's Skink Skilton's Skink Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Adult Western Skinks have light and dark stripes on a brown body.
The tail can be blue or brown.
During the breeding season, adult males develop reddish coloring on the head and tail. © Brandon Hunsberger
Adult body size is fairly small - up to 3.4 inches (8.6 cm) in length, not including the tail. 
Juveniles have distinct stripes
and bright blue tails
Body is covered with
smooth shiny scales

 
 
Coronado Skink
Plestiodon skiltonianus interparietalis
Coronado Skink sCoronado Skink Coronado Skink Coronado Skink Coronado Skink Western Skink California Range Map
Adult Adult with breeding orange color Adult Adult Adult Juvenile © Sean Kelly Found in the dark purple area
 
Skilton's Skink
Plestiodon skiltonianus skiltonianus
Skilton's Skink Skilton's Skink Skilton's Skink Skilton's Skink Skilton's Skink Western Skink California Range Map
Adult Adult male with breeding orange color Adult Adult Adult Juvenile Found in the red areas
 

   Whiptails - genus Aspidoscelis

Great Basin Whiptail Whiptails are slim-bodied lizards with a very long slender tail, a pointed snout, and large scales on the head. Scales on the back are small and granular.

Active during daylight, and often seen actively moving on the ground in open, dry areas, foraging for insects around vegetation. Occasionally seen climbing on low plants.

They are difficult to get close to and are capable of rapid bursts of speed.

Two species of Whiptails are native to California, Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail and the Western Whiptail, which has three subspecies.

There is also a non-native species that has become introduced into Southern California, so far mostly in Orange County, which can be confused with Belding's Orange-throated whiptail. (See Sonoran Spotted Whiptail, below.)

More information about Identifying Whiptails in California.
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Whiptail
Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Coastal Whiptail California Whiptail California Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Great Basin Collared Lizard
Long body with long thin tail. Long head with pointed nose Strongly-marked pattern on the back is marbled, spotted, or striped in appearance. Small granular scales on the back
 
Orange-throated Whiptail
Aspidoscelis hyperythra

Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail

Aspidoscelis hyperythra
beldingi
Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail California Range Map
Adult male
This species has light stripes on the back, unlike the Western Whiptail.
Found only in coastal
Southern California.
Adult female

Orange coloring is not always
present on this species.
Adult males have bright orange coloring on the throat, which becomes brighter during the spring breeding season. Adult male showing orange throat.

Smaller than the Western Whiptail.
Adults grow up to 2.75 inches (7 cm) in length, not including the tail, which can be more than twice the body length.
Sub-adult © Darren Ramsey
Juveniles have a blue tail.
Some adults also retain some of the juvenile blue coloring on the tail.
Found in the red area
 
 
   Tiger Whiptail - Aspidoscelis tigris - (Three subspecies in California)

Great Basin Whiptail The back of this species is mostly a mottled or marbled pattern, sometimes light or dark markings form irregular stripes. Juveniles tend to have a more striped appearance than adults.

Adults grow up to 5 inches long (12.7 cm) not including the tail, or about 13 inches (33 cm) including the tail.

Common in the deserts, less common in open dry fields and grasslands in much of the rest of the state.

 
San Diegan Tiger Whiptail
Aspidoscelis tigris
stejnegeri
Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Coastal Whiptail Tiger Whiptails California Range Map
Adult. This subspecies is found in coastal Southern California. Adult Adult Adult © Stacey Bergman Adult © Jay Keller Adult Found in the dark blue area
 
California Whiptail
Aspidoscelis tigris
munda
California Whiptail California Whiptail California Whiptail California Whiptail California Whiptail Tiger Whiptails California Range Map
Adult © Jackson Shedd
This subspecies is found in the Central Valley and the South Coast Ranges.
Adult   © Patrick Briggs Adult Adult   © Joel A. Germond Adult   © George Chrisman Juvenile Found in the orange area
 
Great Basin Whiptail
Aspidoscelis tigris
tigris

Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Great Basin Whiptail Tiger Whiptails California Range Map
Adult © Adam Clause
This subspecies is found in the deserts.
Adult Adult
Adult   © Adam Clause Adult Juvenile Found in the red areas
 
             
  Night Lizards - genus Xantusia

Desert Night Lizard Night Lizards are small, thin, soft-skinned lizards with large eyes with vertical pupils (for seeing at night and in dark places). Color and pattern and behavior are variable, depending on the species.

Six species are found in California, with only a small area where ranges overlap - Sandstone Night Lizard, Granite Night Lizard, Sierra Night Lizard, Desert Night Lizard, Wiggins' Night Lizard, and Island Night Lizard.

Adults of most species grow to about 2.75 inches in length (7 cm) not including the tail.
Wiggin's Night Lizard is smaller, at 1.7 inches long from snout to vent (4.4 cm).
The Island Night Lizard is much larger, up to 4.2 inches long (10.6 cm).
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Night Lizard
Desert Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard    
Small lizards with a long tail, either speckled or mottled in appearance, depending on the species. Some species have a dark phase, seen when a lizard is hiding in a dark place, and a light phase, seen when a lizard is active on light-colored rocks. Pupils are vertical Adult - dark phase Adult - light phase    
 
Sandstone Night Lizard
Xantusia gracilis
Sandstone Night Lizard Sandstone Night Lizard Sandstone Night Lizard Sandstone Night Lizard Sandstone Night Lizard

Sandstone Night Lizard Range Map

Adults are about 2.75 inches in length
(7 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult Adult Adult Adult Found in the red dot
 
Granite Night Lizard
Xantusia henshawi
Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard Granite Night Lizard
Adults are about 2.75 inches in length
(7 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult - dark phase Adult - light phase Adult Adult and juvenile Found in the red area
 
Sierra Night Lizard
Xantusia sierrae
Sierra Night Lizard Sierra Night Lizard Sierra Night Lizard Sierra Night Lizard Sierra Night Lizard Night Lizards Range Map
Adults are about 2.75 inches in length
(7 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult  © Tim Burkhardt Adult   © Jackson Shedd Adult Found in the dark blue area
 
Desert Night Lizard
Xantusia vigilis
Desert Night Lizard Desert Night Lizard
Desert Night Lizard Desert Night Lizard Desert Night Lizard Night Lizards Range Map
Adults are about 2.75 inches in length
(7 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult Adult, missing the end of its tail Adult Juvenile, missing the end of its tail Found in the red area
 
Wiggins' Night Lizard
Xantusia wigginsi
Baja California Night Lizard Baja California Night Lizard Baja California Night Lizard Wiggins' Night Lizard Baja California Night Lizard
Adults are about 1.7 inches long
(4.4 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult Adult Adult Juvenile Found in the red areas
 
 
   Island Night Lizard - Xantusia riversiana - (Two subspecies in California)

San Clemente Night Lizard
Xantusia riversiana
reticulata
San Clemente Night Lizard San Clemente Night Lizard San Clemente Night Lizard San Clemente Night Lizard San Clemente Night Lizard Island Night Lizards Range Map
Adults are about 4.2 inches long
(10.6 cm) not including the tail.
Adult Adult Striped adult  © Bob Haase Adult Adult   © Bob Haase Found on the red islands
 
San Nicolas Night Lizard
Xantusia riversiana
riversiana
San Nicolas Night Lizard San Nicolas Night Lizard San Nicolas Night Lizard San Nicolas Night Lizard San Nicolas Night Lizard   Island Night Lizards Range Map
Adults are about 4.2 inches long
(10.6 cm) not including the tail. 
© Stephanie Root
Adult © Stephanie Root Adult © Stephanie Root Adult © Stephanie Root Juvenile © Stephanie Root   Found on the bright green island
 

        Established Non-Native Lizards

 
  
   Anoles
- genus Anolis

Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
© Len Geiger
Anoles are small thin lizards with a long pointed snout and a long thin tail.
They are excellent climbers, often seen on trees, fences, and shrubs. They will often move to the other side of a tree if you approach them or quickly leap to another perching site nearby.

Two non-native species have become established in coastal southern California. Both are similar in size and similar in appearance when brown in color, but there are some details that can help tell them apart.

The Green Anole can change color from green to brown, but the Brown Anole cannot change to green. If you see a bright green anole, it's a Green Anole.
The color of the dewlap (a colorful pouch below the throat of a male anole) can also help separate the two species. Green Anole males have a pink dewlap, Brown Anole males have an orange dewlap.

So far, Green Anoles are the only small mostly-green lizards established in many places in California. Juvenile Iguanas are also bright green, but they are much larger and so far they have not become established in California. Italian Wall Lizards can have patches of green coloring, but they are larger and only in a couple of locations. Jackson's Chameleons can also have green coloring, but they are much larger with a different body shape and they are much less common and much less conspicuous in the few places they have become established.

Two species of Anoles are well-established in California - The Green Anole, and the Brown Anole.
Physical Features
to Observe When Identifying
an Anole
Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard  
Long nose Brightly-colored dewlap (no other type of lizard in California has them.) © Chris DeGroof
The Green Anole is the only small
all-green lizard in the state.
Small size, smooth skin,
brownish or green in color
© Charlie Wheeler
Small granular scales on the back unlike the much larger and spinier scales on the back of the native Fence Lizards that share their habitat.  
 
Green Anole
Anolis Carolinensis
Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole Green Anole range map
Adult - green phase
Adults are bout 3 inches (7.6 cm) long from snout to vent, or 5-8 inches long (12.7 - 20.3 cm) including the tail.
Adult male - brown phase Adult - brown phase Male Green Anoles often display a pink dewlap or pouch on the throat, expanding and contracting it repeatedly to make it appear like a flash of color. A Green Anole can quickly change its color from green to brown, as you can see in these before and after pictures of the same lizard. Click the picture to watch a short video of the color change. Sometimes there is a light stripe on
the back in either color phase
Black dots show some of the areas where this lizard has been introduced. So far it is mostly found in the coastal southern California region.
 
Brown Anole
Anolis sagrei
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed Lizard range map
Adult
Adults are about 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) long, not including the tail, and about 8 inches long (20.3 cm) including the tail.
Adult male   © Len Geiger Adult male, displaying the
crest on his back
Male Brown Anoles often display an orange dewlap or pouch on the throat, expanding and contracting it repeatedly to make it appear like a flash of color. Adult female - Brown Anoles can change from dark brown to pale brown Females can have a light stripe on back Black dots show some of the areas where this lizard has been introduced. So far it is mostly found in the coastal southern California region.
 

   Established Non-native Geckos - Family Gekkonidae

 
 
   House Geckos
- genus - Hemidactylus

Mediterranean House Gecko House Geckos are small, slightly-flattened nocturnal climbing lizards. Their toes are specialized to enable them to climb smooth surfaces, including glass.

Adults of the three species range from about 2.4 to 5 inches long, not including the tail (4.4 - 12.7 cm). With the tail they can be 4 to about 8 inches long (10.2 - 20.3 cm).
They have adapted well to living in and around human dwellings in urban, suburban, and rural areas. They have spread largely by being transported in shipments of goods carried in vehicles.

As their name suggests, they're typically seen on the walls of houses, especially at night where they like to sit under an external light and wait for flying insects that are attracted to the light. Then they will jump into the air to catch an insect. They can also be found on fences, wood piles, and on and underneath other things around a house.

So far, three species of House Gecko are established in California. The most common and widespread is the Mediterranean Gecko. The Indo-Pacific or Fox Gecko and the Tropical House Gecko are so far only found in coastal Southern California.
Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
House Gecko
Mediterranean House Gecko Wood Slave Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Wood Slave Wood Slave
Adults are small - from 2.4 to 5 inches long (4.4.- 20.3 cm), not including the tail.  © Nathan Smith Active at night. Often seen climbing
on walls, especially under lights
Specialized pads under the toes enable House Geckos to climb smooth vertical surfaces, including glass. Sometimes seen in groups Pupils are vertical for night vision
 
Indo-Pacific Gecko
(Fox Gecko,
Garnot's House Gecko)
Hemidactylus garnotii
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko range map
Light phase adult © William Flaxington
The skin is smooth with a row of enlarged, spine-like scales along the lateral edge of the tail.
Long fox-like snout Adults are about 2.5 inches long (6.4 cm) not including the tail and 4 - 5.5 inches in length (10 - 14 cm) including the tail. Adult Adult in dark phase  © John Sullivan Underside is usually yellow and the underside of the tail is red. Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
Tropical House Gecko
(Wood Slave, etc.)
Hemidactylus mabouia
wood slave Wood Slave Wood Slave Tropical House Gecko Tropical House Gecko Wood Slave Bande Gila Monster California Range Map
Occurs in a light and dark phase. This adult is in the dark phase.
This species can be identified by the four or five rear-facing dark chevron-like markings on the back.
Adult
The skin is covered with
small tubercles.
This is the largest House Gecko found in California. Adults are 4-5 inches (10-12.7 cm) in length, not including the tail, and up to about 8 inchds long with the tail. Adult © William Flaxington Adult in light phase © Daniel
Juvenile in light phase Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
Mediterranean Gecko
Hemidactylus turcicus
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko range map
Adults are 1.75 to 2.38 inches long from snout to vent (4.4 - 6 cm) or 4 - 5 inches long including tail (10.2 - 12.7 cm). Adult
The skin is covered with conspicuous large bumpy tubercles.
These geckos have a light phase and a dark phase.
These are pictures of the same lizard in dark phase (left) and light phase (right).
Adult Juveniles have more prominent light
and dark tail banding than adults.
Black dots show some of the areas where this lizard has been introduced
 

   Wall Geckos
- genus Tarentola

Moorish Wall Gecko Wall Geckos are robust-bodied climbing lizards with large eyes with vertical pupils and no eyelids, elongated toe pads. and rows of large tubercles covering the back.
They are larger than the House Geckos and larger than the more common Mediterranean Geckos, which are the only non-native geckos in California so far that have lots of large tubercles on the skin.

Wall Geckos are active at night, but are sometimes seen active in daylight.

As their name suggests, they are typically seen climbing vertical surfaces such as walls and fences, and they are comfortable living in and around human dwellings.

They are spreading more slowly around the state than the House Geckos. Their initial introduction appears to be from the release of pet lizards into the wild rather than from transportation in vehicles.

Two species have been introduced into California, the Moorish Gecko and the Ringed Wall Gecko (also called the White-spotted Wall Gecko.)

Physical Features to Observe When Identifying a
Wall Gecko
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko xGreat Basin Collared Lizard      
Wall Geckos are larger than House Geckos and the more common Mediterranean Geckos. Wall Geckos have small granular scales with intermittent large tubercles which give the skin a spiky appearance. They have more tubercles and larger tubercles on the skin than the more common Mediterranean Geckos.
Specialized toes make it capable of climbing smooth vertical surfaces, including glass.        
 
Ringed Wall Gecko
(White-spotted Wall Gecko)
Tarentola annularis
San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard San Francisco Alligator Lizard   Long-tailed Brush Lizard Range Map
Adult © William Flaxington

The Ringed Wall Gecko gets up to 8 inches long including the tail (20.3 cm) which is larger than the Moorish Gecko.
Adult Adult © William Flaxington
This gecko is sometimes confused with the sympatric Mediterranean Gecko which is smaller in size and has smaller and more numerous tubercles.
Adult © William Flaxington Ringed Wall Geckos have white spots on the upper back in a semi-circular pattern that can help identify them.

  Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
Moorish Gecko
Tarentola mauritanica
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko xGreat Basin Collared Lizard Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko range map
Adult © Monte Lininger

The Moorish Gecko gets up to 6 inches long including the tail (15 cm) which is smaller than the Ringed Wall Gecko.
Adult © Patrick Briggs
Adult © Patrick Briggs
This gecko is sometimes confused with the sympatric Mediterranean Gecko which is smaller in size and has smaller and more numerous tubercles.
Adult The Moorish Gecko has white blotches
but they occur more randomly than the white spots on the Ringed Wall Gecko.
Tiny juvenile about 2 inches long including tail. © Marc Hawkins Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
Rough-tailed Bowfoot Gecko Cyrtopodion scabrum lizard lizard lizard lizard lizard lizard Peninsular Banded Gecko California Range Map
© Elliot Jaramillo
Adults are small - 3 to 4 and 5/8 inches long (7.5 - 11.7 cm) including the tail.
Adult © Elliot Jaramillo Adult © William Flaxington Tail is covered with rough keeled scales.
Compare with the smoother tail of the Mediterranean Gecko.
Toes are thin with no pads on the tips.
Compare with the padded toes of the Mediterranean Gecko.
Body is covered with
lots of large keeled scales.
Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
 
Miscellaneous Non-native Lizards

 
Sonoran Spotted Whiptail
Aspidoscelis sonorae
Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail Aspidoscelis map
Adult © William Flaxington
Smaller than the native Western Whiptail, adults average 3.5 inches
(9 cm) in length, not including the tail.
Adult © Ryan Winkleman Adult © Ryan Winkleman
Adults have 6 distinct light stripes
on the back with light spots in the
dark fields between the stripes.
Adult © Nathan Taxel
Because of the light and dark stripes on the back, adults and juveniles are sometimes confused with the native
Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail
.
Adult © Ryan Winkleman Juvenile © William Flaxington Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
African Five-lined Skink
Trachylepis Quinquetaeniata
African Five-lined Skink African Five-lined Skink African Five-lined Skink African Five-lined Skink African Five-lined Skink African Five-lined Skink Long-tailed Brush Lizard Range Map
A stocky skink with smooth shiny skin, a cylindrical body, pointed snout, and long toes.

The body grows up to 5.25 inches long, not including the tail and the tail can be
5 to almost 8 inches long.
Adult males show a bright yellow stripe on the sides of the head and upper body.

This skink has become established in
a few suburban neighborhoods
in the eastern San Gabriel Valley
in L.A. county.
Adult male.
Males lack the stripes found on females.
Adult female with longitudinal stripes.

The wide body and striped back on females can cause them to be confused with the native Skilton's Skink.
Adult male Adult male Red dot shows the area where this lizard has been introduced
 
Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon Yellow-crested Jackson's Chameleon range map

A large, thick-bodied arboreal lizard with a prehensile tail that can be coiled when not used to help with climbing.

Average total length including tail is 10 inches (25.4 cm).

Adult male
Males have three horn-like projections
at the front of the head.
Adult female This species is able to rapidly change color. These are 3 color variations of the same adult female chameleon 
that occured shortly after she was captured from the wild.
Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
 
Italian Wall Lizard
Podaris siculus
Southern Italian Wall Lizard Southern Italian Wall Lizard Southern Italian Wall Lizard Southern Italian Wall Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard range map
This European species has become established in San Pedro in L.A. County, and San Marcos in San Diego County.
It has adapted to living in suburban yards and is typically seen on walls and fences.
Adult This species is highly variable in appearance. Color can be green, yellowish, olive, or light brown, with a dark checkered or reticulated pattern on the sides that may extend onto the back, which sometimes form stripe-like streaks. Some indivisuals have a faint pattern or none at all. Adults grow as large as 3.5 inches long (9 cm) not including the tail, which can be up to twice the body length. Adult Italian Wall Lizards have small granular scales on the back. Red dots show some of the areas
where this lizard has been introduced
















           
             
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