What kinds of horned lizards are there in Colorado?”

common horned lizards in Colorado

 

Horned lizards are sometimes called horned toads, and it’s easy to see why. With their plump bodies, short legs, and bumpy, scaly skin, you could easily mistake one for a toad if you didn’t see its tail!

 

But these interesting creatures are reptiles, not amphibians, and have fascinating characteristics that separate them from other animals. For example, they have the unique ability to shoot blood from their eyes!

 

Today, you will learn the 3 kinds of horned lizards found in Colorado!

 


#1. Texas Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma cornutum

types of horned lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2.5 to 5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring can vary from yellow to reddish or gray-brown, with a light stripe on the back.
  • In addition to the two long central horns, two rows of spiky scales, called fringe scales, line the sides of the body.

 

The Texas Horned Lizard is best known for shooting blood from its eyes to defend against predators!

 

These reptiles are even able to aim the foul-tasting blood directly into the predator’s mouth! Talk about biting off more than you can chew!

 

Texas Horned Lizards are found in Colorado in open, sandy land without much plant life. Some cactus or mesquite may be present, but their habitat is mostly rocky with loose soil or sand to burrow in and lay eggs. They can lay clutches of up to 50 eggs at a time!

 

Texas Horned Lizard Range Map:

 

Almost the entire diet of the Texas Horned Lizard is made up of ants. However, they do occasionally eat beetles and grasshoppers.

 

These gorgeous lizards also make popular pets, and unfortunately, they have been released frequently outside of their normal range. Natural populations are threatened because of habitat loss, the introduction of fire ants, and pesticide use.

 


#2. Greater Short-Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma hernandesi

species of horned lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.75 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring is beige, tan, or reddish, speckled with white. There are large brown blotches on neck and sides.
  • Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and to each side.

 

Greater Short-Horned Lizards prefer to live in Colorado in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their habitat is generally semi-arid, with long dry spells and infrequent, but heavy rain.

Greater Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:

Ants are a primary food source for Greater Short-Horned Lizards, but they have a varied diet. They also eat grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and even snails!

 

This species is one of only two types of horned lizards in Colorado that gives birth to live young!

 

And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!

 


#3. Round-Tailed Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma modestum

common horned lizards in Colorado

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 1.5 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloring ranges from ash white, gray, or light brown to reddish.
  • Body shape is very rounded and toad-like, with a slim, round tail.

 

Round-Tailed Horned Lizards in Colorado prefer to live in areas with rocky soil, where they camouflage among pebbles and gravel. Trees in their habitat include cedar, mesquite, and ponderosa pine.

 

Round-Tailed Horned Lizard Range Map:

 

Though ants are Round-Tailed Horned Lizards’ main food source, they also eat termites, caterpillars, and beetles. Predators of the species include coyotes and birds of prey.

 

Round-Tailed Horned Lizards can match their coloring with the soil of their habitat!

 

That is why individuals can be all different shades and colors.

 

Its most common defensive strategy is to freeze and blend in with the rocks around it! This horned lizard even has a humped back and bumpy skin that helps with this defense.


Do you need additional help identifying horned lizards?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these horned lizards have you seen in Colorado?

 

Leave a comment below!