“How many Geckos are there in California?”
You might be surprised to know that of all the geckos found in California, only a few are native. I know I was when I first started learning about geckos!
Including introduced species, there are 24 different geckos in the US! On this list, some similar species are grouped together.
Today, you’ll learn about 10 different kinds of geckos in California.
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#1. Western Banded Gecko
- Coleonyx variegatus
- 2 to 3 inches long.
- The eyelids are movable, and the pupils are vertical.
- Coloring is pink to pale yellow with brown bands on the back and tail. The belly is white to off-white.
- When handled or disturbed, this species makes a small squeaking noise.
Western Banded Geckos in southern California have adapted to an arid climate.
By being nocturnal and spending much of their time underground, they can withstand their habitat’s lack of rain and intense heat.
You’re likely to find Western Banded Geckos around rocks or debris, which they use for cover when they are above ground. They eat insects and spiders.
Like many of their relatives, Western Banded Geckos are excellent at climbing and can scale vertical rocks and walls!
There are four subspecies of the Western Banded Gecko in California. They are all so similar in coloring and pattern that it would be hard to tell them apart by appearance. The four subspecies are:
Desert Banded Gecko (C.v. variegatus)
Tuscon Banded Gecko (C.v. bogerti)
San Diego Banded Gecko (C.v. abbotti)
Utah Banded Gecko (C.v. utahensis)
#2. Mediterranean House Gecko
- Hemidactylus turcicus
- 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.
- The pupils are vertical, and the eyes are large and round with immovable eyelids.
- This species has two color phases for camouflage.
- Pale phase: the coloring is light pink to pale yellow or white, with brown or gray blotches.
- Dark phase: the coloring darkens to gray or brown, obscuring the blotches on the back.
You might be surprised to find out that the most abundant and widespread gecko in the US is NOT native! The Mediterranean House Gecko was introduced to California via imported plants carrying their egg clutches. They are adaptable to so many environments that their population quickly outpaced any of our native geckos!
Mediterranean House Geckos are nocturnal, but this won’t stop you from being able to find them. They are considered an “urbanized” species, which means they are just as happy to live inside your house as they are in the wild!
They eat insects attracted to lights and are commonly found on walls, ceilings, and window screens in homes. Outside, look for them in rock crevices or cracked tree trunks.
In addition to being comfortable around humans, Mediterranean House Geckos in California are a vocal species.
The mating call of males is a series of clicks, and they frequently make a squeaking noise if threatened.
Even though Mediterranean House Geckos aren’t native to California, they are so well-recognized they belong on any list of geckos in our area.
#3 – #5. Bi-Coastal Geckos
These three non-native Geckos have all been introduced in Florida and California.
They arrived via agriculture and pet trade, and because they are so well adapted to their environment, they quickly spread throughout their range. They live in urban and suburban areas and are frequently found inside buildings. All three species eat insects, keeping the buildings they inhabit relatively pest-free!
#3. Moorish Wall Gecko
- Tarentola mauritanica
Moorish Wall Geckos are 4.5 to 6 inches long, with spiny skin. They are light yellowish-gray in color. Their native range is Mediterranean, Africa, and Europe.
#4. Ringed Wall Gecko
- Tarentola annularis
Ringed Wall Geckos are 7 to 8 inches long and are dark brown to sandy gray in color. They have splotchy, broken lines on their back in a darker brown color. Their natural range is Northern Africa.
#5. Indo-Pacific Gecko
- Hemidactylus garnotii
Indo-Pacific Geckos are 4 to 5.5 inches long. They are brownish-gray to dark brown with a lemon yellow belly. This species is parthenogenetic, meaning it is all-female, and its offspring are genetic clones of the mother. Its native range is southeast Asia, the East Indies, and the South Sea islands.
#6. Barefoot Gecko
- Coleonyx switaki
- 2 to 3.5 inches long.
- Coloring is pale beige to reddish-brown, with brown spots.
- This species also has lighter spots that form crossbands on the back.
Barefoot Geckos in California prefer flatlands and canyons with plenty of rock outcrops and boulders.
They are nocturnal and prone to hiding in deep crevices, so you are fortunate if you find one in the wild!
Like many other species, Barefoot Geckos squeak if they are disturbed or handled. However, they also have a unique display habit if they feel threatened. They will walk away from a potential predator with their tail curled up and waving in the air.
This may make them look larger or more dangerous, and therefore less appetizing!
#7. Leaf-Toed Gecko
- Phyllodactylus xanti
- 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.
- As its name suggests, the splayed toes of this species resemble a tropical leaf.
- Coloring is pink, brown, or gray, with dark brown spots and a pale, whitish belly.
The Leaf-Toed Gecko is only found in rocky terrain in far southern California. You might spot them near streams or rivers, but they have been known to live far from water as well. Leaf-Toed Geckos eat insects and spiders.
There are two subspecies, but only one in the U.S.: the Peninsular Lead-Toed Gecko, P.x. nocticolus. This is the larger of the two subspecies.
Like many other gecko species, Leaf-Toed Geckos are vocal when disturbed and will squeak if handled.
#8. Gold Dust Day Gecko
- Phelsuma laticauda
In the U.S., Gold Dust Day Geckos live in South Florida and the Keys, and they are occasionally found in California. Their native range is Madagascar.
Most commonly, this species is found in the continental US as an escaped pet. However, they occasionally find themselves here via imported plants from Hawaii.
#9. Mourning Gecko
- Hemidactylus lugubris
The Mourning Gecko is found in southern Florida and occasionally California in the US. Its native range is the Pacific islands.
One of the few all-female gecko species; its young are genetic clones!
#10. Tropical House Gecko
- Hemidactylus mabouia
Look for the Tropical House Gecko in the Florida peninsula and the Keys, as well as California. Its native range is tropical Africa.
Coloring is uniform pale gray or light brown, with thin, dark crossbands.
Do you need additional help identifying geckos?
Try this field guide!
Which of these geckos have you seen in California?
Leave a comment below!