2 Collared Lizards Found in California! (ID Guide)

How many COLLARED lizards are there in California?”


common collared lizards in California


Collared Lizards are aptly named. They have thick, dark bands around their necks that look like a pet collar!


These long, colorfully patterned lizards are some of the most fascinating creatures in our area! 


Today, you’ll learn the 2 kinds of collared lizards in California.


#1. Great Basin Collared Lizard

  • Crotaphytus bicinctores

types of collared lizards in California

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 3.5-4.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is brown to grayish with small white dots and dashes all over the back.
  • Two dark collar markings edged in white appear on the neck.
  • Males often have crossbands in pink and orange, a bluish-gray throat, and black patches on the neck. Females lack these markings.


Look for Great Basin Collared Lizards in the Unites States in desert habitats with little plant life.


You can find them near rocky outcroppings, which they use for basking to warm themselves and as a shelter to hide from predators.

Here’s an interesting fact: Younger males sometimes pretend to be pregnant to avoid fighting with an older, stronger adversary!


Female Great Basin Collared Lizards develop bright orange markings when nesting, and male juveniles sometimes develop similar markings as a defensive strategy. What a creative way to stay out of trouble!


#2. Baja California Collared Lizard

  • Crotaphytus vestigium

species of collared lizards in California

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Up to 5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Grayish brown coloring with thin, white crossbars. White spots and dashes on the body in between crossbars.
  • Two black collar markings on the neck.
  • The tail is flattened and has one whitish stripe along the middle.


Look for Baja California Collared Lizards in Southern California in desert canyons and lava flows. They live primarily in rocky habitats with little or no vegetation.

USGS – United States Geological Survey

Baja California Collared Lizards are powerful runners!


They can move at up to 16 miles per hour. When racing around at this speed, they keep their front legs off the ground and balance deftly on their back legs.


This unusual, acrobatic motion is called bipedal running.

YouTube video


Do you need additional help identifying collared lizards?

Try this field guide!


Which of these collared lizards have you seen before in California?


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