“How many COLLARED lizards are there in the United States?”
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 5 kinds of collared lizards in the United States.
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#1. Eastern Collared Lizard
- Crotaphytus collaris
- 3-4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- This lizard has a large, broad head and chunky body with a round tail.
- There are 2 dark collars on the neck, a thinner one near the head and a thicker one near the body.
- Coloring is variable; greenish-blue, olive, brown, or yellow are all common. Females are generally darker and less colorful.
Eastern Collared Lizards can be found in the United States in desert shrubland, open juniper-pinon forest, and grassland. They prefer areas with rocks for basking, open space for running, and lots of sunlight.
The Eastern Collared Lizard is wildly territorial!
Adult males will not live in the same area, and if they’re placed in the same enclosure, they will fight to the death. You might see them displaying dominance by standing on their hind legs, inflating their throat, and weaving from side to side.
Eastern Collared Lizards aren’t just aggressive toward one another – they are also powerful predators! Their sharp teeth and strong jaws make catching a meal easy. They have been known to eat large insects, reptiles, and even other Collared Lizards!
#2. Great Basin Collared Lizard
- Crotaphytus bicinctores
- 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!
#3. Sonoran Collared Lizard
- Crotaphytus nebrius
- Up to 4.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is yellowish to tan with round, white spots.
- The tail is rounded with no striping.
- The belly is burnt orange in breeding males; otherwise, it is pale gray-brown.
The Sonoran Collared Lizard is ONLY found in Arizona!
It is at home in diverse habitats within the desert. You can find this lizard in any desert area with rocky outcroppings, including sandy areas, dense brush or scrubland, mountain regions, and grasslands.
The easiest way to spot a Sonoran Collared lizard is to drive through their habitat slowly in the early morning or late afternoon.
They use these hours for basking in the sun on tall rocks and avoiding the midday heat by retreating into rock crevices.
#4. Baja California Collared Lizard
- Crotaphytus vestigium
- 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 the southwest United States in desert canyons and lava flows. They live primarily in rocky habitats with little or no vegetation.
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.
#5. Reticulate Collared Lizard
- Crotaphytus reticulatus
- Up to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is yellowish, with dots that form its characteristic fishnet pattern. The dots range in color from light tan to black.
- Males have black bars on the neck and bright yellow chest markings when breeding.
- Breeding females have brick red bars on the back and sometimes a pink tint to the throat.
This species is the only type of collared lizard that is not restricted to rocky habitats.
They live in desert scrubland, mesquite groves, and prickly pear cactus patches. They prefer hot, sunny weather, and you can usually see them basking in the heat of the day.
Reticulate Collared Lizards are easy to spot in southern Texas because of their unique pattern.
However, you’ll have difficulty finding one because this is the only Collared Lizard species whose population is threatened. Their range is in decline because of the loss of their habitat due to human development.
Do you need additional help identifying collared lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these collared lizards have you seen before in the United States?
Leave a comment below!