“What kinds of lizards can you find in Arizona?”
I was amazed by the number of lizards in the United States – well over 150 species! Some species live only in a small area, and some are widespread over hundreds of miles.
Today, you’ll learn about 41 different kinds of lizards in Arizona.
#1. Western Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis tigris
- 2.5 to 5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Body coloring is gray-brown to yellowish, with dark bars or spots that form a web-like pattern.
- Skin folds are present on the neck, making the throat appear wrinkled.
- Rust-colored patches are often present on the sides of the belly.
You can find Western Whiptail Lizards in Arizona in sandy, rocky, or firmly packed soil.
Their habitat preferences range from open forest to arid scrubland. Western Whiptails eat other lizards, scorpions, spiders, termites, and beetles. As you can see, this lizard is anything but picky!
Their physical characteristics and habitats are so varied that there are sixteen distinct subspecies! As you can see in the map above, five of the subspecies are present throughout the Southwest.
#2. Desert Grassland Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis uniparens
- 2.75 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- The coloring of the dark stripes is black to brown, sometimes with a green cast.
- 6 or 7 light stripes run down the back.
- The tail color varies from olive-green to blue-green.
The Desert Grassland Whiptail’s preferred habitat is lowland desert and mesquite grassland.
Occasionally they travel into mountain areas and can be found in evergreen forests.
Interestingly, overgrazing is causing the Desert Grassland Whiptail Lizard’s range to expand, rather than threatening its habitat. You might think the opposite, but the loss of plant life creates more desert, where this lizard is right at home!
#3. Sonoran Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis sonorae
- 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- The coloring of the dark fields (larger stripes) is brown or black, sometimes reddish, with light tan spots.
- The back has 6 light lines, and some of the spots may overlap the lines.
- The tail is dull orange, gradually turning to olive-brown at the tip.
Look for Sonoran Spotted Whiptails in southeastern Arizona in desert scrubland and oak woodland habitats. They eat termites, beetles, grasshoppers, and spiders.
Natural predators of this whiptail lizard are in for a surprise when they try to catch one.
This lizard can “drop” its tail if caught, leaving the predator holding a much smaller meal than it planned! The lizard’s tail then regenerates, but this takes so much energy that this defense is often a last resort.
#4. Gila Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis flagellicauda
- 2.5 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Dark fields are coffee brown, with golden-yellow spots.
- 6 light stripes on the back are usually greenish or gold near the neck and white on the body.
- The tail is light olive green, and the belly is unmarked white or pale cream.
You can find the Gila Spotted Whiptail in Arizona in juniper and oak woodlands, along the sides of streams, and in desert grasslands. Their diet is primarily termites and ants.
Gila Spotted Whiptail Lizards have a fascinating talent – they can clone themselves!
In a process called parthenogenesis, members of this all-female species lay unfertilized eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young lizards are genetically identical to their mother!
#5. Plateau Striped Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis velox
- 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 or 7 light stripes run down the back, with dark stripes in-between, ranging from black to dark brown.
- The tail is bright, royal blue in young lizards, and fades to light blue in adults.
- The belly is pale, buff, or white, with a light-blue mark on the chin or throat sometimes present.
In Arizona, you can typically spot Plateau Striped Whiptails in mountain forests of pine, juniper, oak, and fir trees.
They eat insects like termites, beetles, and grasshoppers, as well as spiders.
The Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard’s most interesting feature is how it reproduces: the species is all-female!
Nesting adults lay unfertilized eggs, which grow and hatch as genetic clones of the mother. This lizard wins the award for self-sufficiency!
#6. Little Striped Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis inornata
- 2 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 to 8 stripes range in color from pale yellow to white, and dark fields are brownish-green to black.
- The tail is bluish-purple near the tip, with the coloring brighter in males.
- Blue coloring on the belly is darker toward the tail, fading to light blue or white near the throat.
The Little Striped Whiptail Lizard prefers prairie grassland but is also found in shrubby desert areas in Arizona.
It eats insects and their larvae, and also spiders – including tarantulas! This species may be one of the smallest whiptail lizards in Arizona, but it’s brave when it comes to dinnertime!
Because of overgrazing and human development of its habitat, the Little Striped Whiptail population is in decline throughout its range.
#7. Canyon Spotted Whiptail
- Aspidoscelis burti
- 3.5 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- 6 or 7 light strips run down the back.
- Dark fields and heads are reddish with irregular pale speckles.
- In young individuals, an orange or reddish tail is common.
The Canyon Spotted Whiptail is the LARGEST whiptail lizard in Arizona!
It lives in mountain canyons and mesas with a semi-arid climate. Canyon Spotted Whiptail Lizards use dense, shrubby vegetation to hide since they are often too large to use animal burrows.
You’re likely to spot one of the two U.S. subspecies in the early morning or late afternoon when they are most active.
The Red-Backed Whiptail (A. b. xanthonotus) is smaller and more red-brown. The Giant Spotted Whiptail (A. b. stictogrammus) is the largest subspecies, up to 20 inches long, including the tail!
Besides being the largest whiptail lizard, the Giant Spotted Whiptail is also the most aggressive. Males will fight one another for a female, over territory, and for food!
#8. Common Sagebrush Lizard
- Sceloporus graciosus
- 1.9 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is gray or brown with a light stripe on each side, a black bar at the shoulder, and blue patches on the belly.
- Unusually long, almost spidery back claws.
This species is the most recognizable spiny lizard in northern Arizona.
Common Sagebrush Lizards are typically found in sagebrush fields, as their name suggests, but you can also find them in grasslands and among dunes. They are most active during daylight hours.
Common Sagebrush Lizard Range Map:
These spiny lizards eat a wide variety of insects and even scorpions! They hibernate during winter when temperatures drop, and food becomes scarce.
The easiest way to tell if you’ve found a Common Sagebrush Lizard is to look at its belly. The brilliant blue spots on its throat and abdomen are a dead giveaway!
#9. Desert Spiny Lizard
- Sceloporus magister
- 3.25 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is straw, yellowish, or light brown on the back, and the sides are usually rust-colored.
- In males, the throat has a blueish-green patch. In females, the head and neck are sometimes orange.
This species is the most aggressive spiny lizard in Arizona!
They often bite when handled, so beware if you come across one in the wild.
Desert Spiny Lizards eat insects and larvae and even other lizards! Though they live in the desert, as their name suggests, they’re comfortable in many habitats, from riverbeds to yucca grassland and mesquite woodland.
Desert Spiny Lizards find shelter from the intense heat under logs, rocks, and in rodent burrows. You may be lucky enough to spot one coming out of a burrow to bask during the early morning or hunting during the early evening!
#10. Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard
- Sceloporus slevini
- 1.5 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring includes shades of brown with an orange stripe on either side of the body.
- Males have blue patches on the belly.
Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizards live primarily in southeastern Arizona in mountain areas above 6,000 ft. and prefer sunny, open woods. Their primary food source is insects including, wasps and beetles.
Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard Range Map:
It’s more common to hear a Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard in Arizona than to see one.
They are small and fast, prone to hiding, and move quickly from their hiding spots. If you hear a rustling noise at your feet, it could be a Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard scurrying away!
#11. Striped Plateau Lizard
- Sceloporus virgatus
- 1.75 to 3 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is brownish with a pronounced striped pattern: two orange or light brown stripes on each side of the body, outlined in darker brown.
- A small blue patch can be seen on either side of the throat in both males and females.
The Striped Plateau Lizard lives in mountainous terrain with oak and coniferous trees. The species is abundant near streams with sandy or rocky bottoms.
An unusual feature of the female Striped Plateau Lizard is that their blue patches turn orange during the breeding season.
Larger and brighter orange spots signal to male Striped Plateau Lizards that a female is a good selection for mating. And if you see a Striped Plateau Lizard with orange spots instead of blue, look out for babies!
#12. Mountain Spiny Lizard
- Sceloporus jarrovi
- 1.75 to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- The coloring of the scales is black with blue-green or pinkish middles, forming a mesh pattern on the back.
- A black collar around the neck forms a thick band between the head and body.
In southeastern Arizona, the Mountain Spiny Lizard lives in rocky canyons and hillsides. It is an agile climber but prefers rock bluffs and boulders over trees. They mostly eat insects and spiders.
Mountain Spiny Lizard Range Map:
Mountain Spiny Lizards are one of the few lizard species that give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. They give birth to between 2 and 14 offspring every year, in May or June.
#13. Clark’s Spiny Lizard
- Sceloporus clarkii
- 2.75 to 5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is gray to blue-green, with black or gray bands on the arms.
- The scales on the back are long and pointed, ending in sharp spines.
Your best bet for spotting Clark’s Spiny Lizards in Arizona is in the trees.
Even then, you’re most likely to hear one instead of seeing one because even though they are a relatively large species, they are very shy!
Clark’s Spiny Lizard Range Map:
In fact, it usually takes two people to get a photo of a Clark’s Spiny Lizard. One person to distract the lizard while the other quietly sneaks up on it from behind.
They’ll often run around trees or rocks as a defensive strategy, keeping to the opposite side of a threat. If you’re lucky enough to see this behavior in the wild, it may remind you of a squirrel being chased!
#14. Great Plains Skink
- Plestiodon obsoletus
- Adults are up to 13 inches long.
- Coloring ranges from light gray or olive to tan with darker brown markings.
- The tail and feet are usually pale yellow or orange, and the belly is often marked with salmon.
- Young individuals are black with an iridescent blue tail and gold spots on the head.
Great Plains Skinks in Arizona are frequently found in prairie grassland with open, low-growing plants. However, they occasionally also live in woodland or semi-arid desert areas.
Great Plains Skinks are very aggressive if threatened!
They hide under rocks, shrubs, or logs but are likely to bite if they are disturbed or handled. So, if you happen to find one, observe with caution!
In addition, they’re aggressive hunters and will eat insects, snails, spiders, and even other lizards.
#15. Western Skink
- Plestiodon skiltonianus
- Adults are up to 8.5 inches long.
- This species has a broad brown stripe with black edges on the back, bordered in white on each side.
- The tail is normally pale blue or gray, but the throat and underside of the tail turn red-orange during the breeding season.
- Young Western Skink’s tails are brilliant blue.
The Western Skink prefers to live in grassland or pine-oak forests near rocky streams and hillsides. This species primarily eats insects and spiders.
You might have trouble finding Western Skinks in Arizona!
Even though they are common, they are very secretive! They spend most of their time under rocks or in burrows.
Like some other lizard species, the Western Skink is capable of autotomy, which is the severing of its own tail when it’s under threat. Once the tail detaches, it continues to move and wriggle, distracting the predator so the skink can escape. Now THAT is a unique way of dealing with stress!
WARNING: If you’re squeamish, this video might not be for you. Please remember, the skink does this as a defensive measure and isn’t harmed.
There are three subspecies of the Western Skink.
- Skilton’s Skink, P.s. skiltonianus, is the most widespread subspecies.
- Great Basin Skink, P.s. utahensis, tends to live in more rocky areas.
- Coronado Skink, P.s. interparietalis is only found in the southern half of San Diego County in the US.
#16. Many-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon multivirgatus
- Adults are up to 7.5 inches long.
- The tail is much longer than the body compared to other skinks: roughly 1 to 1.5 times as long.
- Light and dark stripes run the length of the body.
- During the breeding season, many males develop orange or red lips.
Many-Lined Skinks in northeastern Arizona prefer areas with water or moist soil.
They live in various habitats, from mountain areas to vacant lots and even city dumps! Their primary food source is ant larvae and other insects.
Young Many-Lined Skinks have bright blue tails. A uniquely colored tail is a defensive strategy that helps attract predators away from the skink’s body! If a predator tries to bite or grab the skink, it can drop its tail and escape!
There are two subspecies of this skink.
- Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) generally has more well-defined stripes and is almost always gray and black.
- Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus) comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The subspecies’ ranges don’t overlap, and some scientists consider them two separate species!
#17. Mountain Skink
- Plestiodon callicephalus
- Adults are up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring in adults is olive to tan, with a muddy blue tail.
- The young of this species have a bright blue tail and much more defined lines.
- Adults have a white or light orange Y-shaped mark on the head.
Mountain Skinks are found in southeastern Arizona in pine and oak forests in mountain regions. They eat beetles, flies, cockroaches, and spiders.
You can easily tell the difference between Mountain Skinks and other species because this skink keeps its blue tail into adulthood most of the time! Usually, the color is not as bright.
Mountain Skinks in Arizona can give birth to live young!
But weirdly, they can lay eggs too. It just depends on their specific habitat and other conditions. When they do lay eggs, the female skink will tend to them until they hatch.
#18. Gilbert’s Skink
- Plestiodon gilberti
- Adults are up to 4.5 inches long.
- Coloring is olive or brown, sometimes with dark spotting but most often plain.
- As this species ages, the tail becomes brick red to orange, and the head is often red.
- Young Gilbert’s Skinks have more pronounced light stripes on the sides and a wide olive stripe on the back.
These skinks are habitat generalists and live in many environments in northwestern Arizona.
You can find them in grassland, desert areas, salt flats, and open woodland. But generally, they prefer rocky areas near streams, where they eat insects and spiders.
There are currently FOUR recognized subspecies of Gilbert’s Skink! However, this may change in the future because scientists are currently studying these subspecies to determine if they are all valid.
- Greater Brown Skink (P.g. gilberti): The young of this subspecies have a brighter blue tail, and the females are smaller than the males.
- Northern Brown Skink (P.g. placerensis): The striping that the young exhibit lasts longer into adulthood in this subspecies
- Variegated Skink (P.g. cancellosus): The young of this subspecies have a pink tail tinged with blue.
- Western Red-Tailed Skink (P.g. rubricaudatus): The young of this subspecies have a pink tail with no blue. This is the ONLY subspecies of Gilbert’s Skink found outside of California!
#19. Texas Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma cornutum
- 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 southeastern Arizona 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, many have been released outside of their normal range. Natural populations are threatened because of habitat loss, the introduction of fire ants, and pesticide use.
#20. Greater Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma hernandesi
- 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 the neck and sides.
- Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and each side.
Greater Short-Horned Lizards prefer to live in Arizona 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 that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#21. Desert Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma platyrhinos
- 2.5 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloration is brown, tan, reddish, gray, or black. Wavy, dark blotches dot the back and neck.
- Blunt snout and short horns.
As its name suggests, the Desert Horned Lizard prefers the arid climate of sandy flats and dunes in desert regions of western Arizona. Areas with cactus, creosote, and saltbush are common homes for the Desert Horned Lizard.
Desert Horned Lizard Range Map:
Desert Horned Lizards have a remarkable hidden talent – they’re good dancers!
They often perform mating dances that display intricate body movements, including head bobbing, weaving, and tail movements. While some lizards use body movement displays as a sign of aggression, Desert Horned Lizards use their moves most often to attract a mate!
One of the easiest ways to find a Desert Horned Lizard is to drive slowly in its habitat in the late afternoon. They’re often seen sunning themselves on the warm pavement!
#22. Goode’s Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma goodei
- 2.5 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Nearly identical in appearance to the Desert Horned Lizard.
- Coloration is brown, tan, reddish, gray, or black. Wavy, dark blotches on the back and neck.
Goode’s Horned Lizards are ONLY found in Arizona!
They’re almost exactly like Desert Horned Lizards, and they are only known to be a separate species because of DNA analysis. So if you find one in the wild, your only clue to know whether you have found a Goode’s Horned Lizard or a Desert Horned Lizard is its location.
Goode’s Horned Lizard Range Map:
Like their close cousins, Goode’s Horned Lizards spend most of their time sunning themselves on warm rocks or pavement in their desert habitat.
#23. Round-Tailed Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma modestum
- 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 southeastern Arizona 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.
#24. Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma mcallii
- 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Generally light in color; pale gray, buff, or light brown that closely matches the soil of its habitat.
- The tail and body are both very flat and low to the ground.
Flat-Tailed Horned Lizards in southwestern Arizona have a unique camouflage adaptation.
Their extremely flat shape and coloring nearly eliminate any shadow they might create, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the ground!
Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard Range Map:
The Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard’s ability to blend in is crucial since they live in open desert areas with little vegetation for shelter. Their main food source is harvester ants that also live in the desert, but they also eat other insects.
This species is endangered and has the smallest range of any horned lizard in Arizona. Their habitat is threatened by human disturbance, especially off-road vehicle use and geothermal power plants.
#25. Regal Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma solare
- 3 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is light gray, beige, or reddish with a dusky band on either side of the body.
- A single row of fringe scales lines the sides, and the horns are connected at the base of the head.
If you spot a Regal Horned Lizard in Arizona, you will instantly know how it got its name!
The row of horns on its head meet at the base, so it looks exactly like it’s wearing a crown! Honestly, I see a Disney movie in their future!
Regal Horned Lizard Range Map:
In addition, the Regal Horned Lizard is the largest horned lizard in Arizona! Its wide, long body and very long horns make it one of the most intimidating lizards as well. Its appearance seems to clearly say, “Stay away from me!”
Like its ferocious appearance isn’t enough, it can also shoot blood from its eyelids into a potential predator’s mouth. This is NOT a lizard you want to mess with!
#26. Common Side-Blotched Lizard
- Uta stansburiana
- 1.5 to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is brownish, occasionally blue-gray, with a blue to black blotch on either side of the chest.
- In the light color phase, this species often has white speckles dotting its back.
Common Side-Blotched Lizards are comfortable in many different habitats. Look for them in sandy, rocky, or hardpan soil with grass, shrubs, and trees. They are abundant in their range and easy to find by concentrating on the ground where they spend most of their time.
There are three separate morphs of the male Side-Blotched Lizard, and interestingly, this plays a huge role in the mating habits of this species.
They employ a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanism with one morph being dominant over the second (like paper over rock) but not over the third (like scissors cutting paper). The result of this unique mechanism is a “rotation” of the most common morph each breeding season! The three morphs are listed below:
- Orange-throated males are the largest and most dominant morph and often breed with harems of females in a single season. They outmaneuver and intimidate blue-throated males, but are often outwitted by yellow-throated males that mimic females.
- Blue-throated males are intermediate in size and generally only breed with one female during a mating season. Therefore, they’re less likely to be fooled by a yellow-throated male but often are “beat out” for mating by orange-throated males.
- Yellow-throated males mimic female Side-blotched Lizards when confronted with other male morphs. In this way, they often escape the aggression of orange-throated males but can’t easily “steal” a female from a blue-throated male.
#27. Ornate Tree Lizard
- Urosaurus ornatus
- 1.5 to 2.25 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring ranges from dark brown and black to tan or gray.
- Dusky crossbands or blotches are common.
- In males, the throat is orange, yellow, green, or pale blue, and there are blue patches on the belly. The throat is white, orange, or yellow in females, and the belly is white or tan.
Ornate Tree Lizards prefer to live near riverbanks in desert and foothill regions.
Despite its name, this species spends most of its time perched on rocks. In fact, you can even find them in treeless areas in their range! However, occasionally they will climb trees if they are startled or searching for food.
Ornate Tree Lizards are very well adapted to developed land, and their numbers are steady even in highly populated areas. This is a bit surprising, considering they have one of the shortest lifespans of all the lizards in Arizona! They rarely live longer than three years.
#28. 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 two 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 Arizona 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’ll 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’re 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!
#29. 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 western Arizona in desert habitats with little plant life.
You can find them near rocky outcroppings, which they use for basking to warm themselves and as 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!
#30. 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.
#31. Common Lesser Earless Lizard
- Holbrookia maculata
- Up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent, and 4 to 5.25 inches total.
- Tan to brown with pale stripes along the back.
- Males have pairs of black bars behind the arms, which females typically lack.
- Gravid (pregnant) females develop pink, yellow, or orange coloring on their backs.
Common Lesser Earless Lizards are found in Arizona in tallgrass prairie with sandy soil.
They are highly camouflaged and almost impossible to see on the ground unless they’re moving.
If you do spot a Common Lesser Earless Lizard, you might notice that it doesn’t have ear openings like other lizards! This is an adaptation that allows it to spend most of its life burrowed under the loose soil of its habitat.
There are up to NINE distinct subspecies of the Lesser Earless Lizard! However, there’s some disagreement in the scientific community about whether all subspecies deserve a separate name. They’re all very similar in looks, and more research is needed.
#32. Elegant Earless Lizard
- Holbrookia Elegans
- Up to 3 inches long from snout to vent, and 6 to 7 inches total.
- Blotches on the back and tail form a chevron pattern.
- Some males have yellowish sides, but predominantly the coloring is gray to tan.
The Elegant Earless Lizard is found only in a small part of the United States. Until very recently, it was considered a subspecies of the Lesser Earless Lizard, and not much is known about its life cycle or even its habitat preferences!
Looking at its tail is the most reliable way to tell the difference between an Elegant Earless Lizard and a Lesser Earless Lizard. You will notice that the Elegant Earless Lizard has a much longer tail, and the chevron pattern (an inverted V pattern, with each side meeting at the point without interruption) extends all the way to the tip.
Before it was given status as a separate species, this lizard was known as the Mexican Earless Lizard.
#33. Greater Earless Lizard
- Cophosaurus texanus
- Up to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent, and 6 to 7 inches total.
- The tail is long and flat, and the body is slim.
- Coloring is generally matched to the soil color of its habitat, which is gray-brown to slate.
Greater Earless Lizards in Arizona avoid extreme elevations both above and below sea level.
You are likely to find them in middle elevations, which is where cactus, mesquite trees, and creosote brush grow.
They eat grasshoppers, caterpillars, wasps, and other insects. Greater Earless Lizards are athletic runners and sometimes curl their tails over their bodies when they are moving quickly!
There are two subspecies:
- Chihuahuan Earless Lizard (C.t. scitulus) Males of this subspecies can be extremely colorful, with pinkish-orange on the upper back and yellowish-green to blue on the lower back. This coloring appears rainbow-like on some individuals!
- Texas Earless Lizard (C.t. texanus) Less colorful than their bright cousins. They generally match the soil of their surroundings.
#34. 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 Arizona 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 Arizona. They are all so similar in coloring and pattern that it’s hard to distinguish them 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)
#35. Long-Tailed Brush Lizard
- Urosaurus graciosus
- 1.9 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- This species is slim and long with a small head.
- Coloring is gray with black crossbars, although it can change color quickly to pale tan if captured.
- Males have a blue or green patch on each side of the belly. In addition, both males and females have a red, orange, or lemon-yellow throat.
The Long-Tailed Brush Lizard is found in desert habitats with scattered plant life, including its favored creosote bush. Exposed root systems of the creosote plant serve as shelter for this species.
Long-tailed Brush Lizards are masters at blending into their environment!
They have a bark-like pattern and coloring that allows them to camouflage themselves against bushes and trees. They’ll stay perfectly still lying on a branch, and you may walk right past one without ever seeing it!
#36. Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard
- Uma scoparia
- 2.75 to 4.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is gray-brown with black, eye-like spots. This helps with camouflage in its habitat’s sandy terrain.
- During the breeding season, this species develops a yellow-green tint near the base of the tail and pink spots on the side.
The Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard spends its life in very arid regions of the desert. It lives in areas of fine sand and scant vegetation and primarily eats insects. However, it also eats spiders, seeds, and flowers if they’re available.
Fringe-toed Lizards get their name from the long scales on their feet. This fringe helps them move around in the loose sand of their habitat.
Its sandy, speckled coloring camouflages the Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard from predators like roadrunners, snakes, and badgers, but it also makes it susceptible to human threats. Off-road vehicles are hazardous to this lizard because riders cannot see them in time to avoid running over them.
#37. Desert Night Lizard
- Xantusia vigilis
- 1.5 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- This species is slender with velvety, soft skin and small scales.
- Coloring is olive, gray, or dark brown with light brown and black blotches.
- Night Lizards have no eyelids, and their pupils are vertical.
Desert Night Lizards are a reclusive, small species that lives in desert habitats. They spend most of their time under the cover of objects in their range. Look for Desert Night Lizards in western Arizona under fallen branches, rocks, cow chips, and dead brush.
Night Lizards get their name from their crepuscular nature, meaning they’re most active at twilight.
During the summer months, they may switch to a nocturnal lifestyle to avoid the heat.
When it was first discovered, the Desert Night Lizard was thought to be exceedingly rare. However, researchers have discovered that it’s one of the most abundant lizards in Arizona. It’s just very good at hiding!
#38. Madrean Alligator Lizard
- Elgaria kingii
- 3-5.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is pale gray, beige, or brown with wavy crossbars.
- Eyes are orange or pink.
- Black and white spots line the upper jaw.
Madrean Alligator Lizards in Arizona prefer mountain habitats with nearby streams. They eat a variety of insects and scorpions.
If caught, the Madrean Alligator Lizard can easily drop its tail.
So please don’t handle or try to catch one in the wild, as you may put it in danger.
It is better to observe these shy, skittish creatures from a distance. One other reason to keep your distance is their main defense mechanism. If threatened, they’ll defecate and then writhe around to smear feces on a predator!
The Madrean Alligator Lizard has one subspecies. The Arizona Alligator Lizard, E.k. nobillis, is found in the same general range and has many of the same characteristics.
#39. Desert Iguana
- Dipsosaurus dorsalis
- Up to 16 inches long, including the tail.
- This species is large and round-bodied with a small rounded head and a long tail.
- Coloring is pale gray with rows of rust-edged light-gray spots.
- The belly is pale with a pinkish-red cast during mating season.
Desert Iguanas in western Arizona are closely associated with creosote brush.
In the southern part of their range, where creosote is less plentiful, they may be found in desert scrubland or rocky terrain.
Look for them basking in the sun even in the heat of the day since Desert Iguanas can withstand temperatures most other animals avoid. Typically, they bask on rocks or dunes near their burrows. However, they won’t seek shelter in their burrows until their body temperature reaches 113 degrees Fahrenheit!
Desert Iguanas eat mainly plants such as the leaves, buds, and flowers of the creosote bush. However, they also eat insects and carrion for additional nutrients.
#40. Common Chuckwalla
- Sauromalus ater
- Up to18 inches long, including the tail.
- Chuckwallas are large and flat, with loose folds of skin on the sides of their neck.
- Coloring is generally black on the head, chest, and limbs, sometimes flecked with light gray. The back is variable – black, red, and light gray coloring are common.
The Common Chuckwalla is prevalent in western Arizona throughout its desert habitat. You can find it on nearly every hillside, lava flow, and outcropping in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.
Credit: United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Common Chuckwallas are easy to spot on the sides of roads, basking on rocks or pavement in the sun. To me, their rounded bodies and small, pointed heads make them look a bit like a balloon animal!
If disturbed, Common Chuckwallas retreat into rock crevices where they gulp air and inflate their bodies to wedge themselves into the crevice.
#41. Gila Monster
- Heloderma suspectum
- 9 to 14 inches long.
- This species is large and heavy, with a short, thick tail.
- Coloring is black mottled with pink, orange, and yellow. The pattern of mottling often looks like beadwork.
- The scales on the back of the Gila Monster are rounded and beadlike. Scales on the belly are flat and square.
The Gila Monster is the ONLY venomous lizard in Arizona!
It’s recognizable by its thick body and tail, and rounded nose. Gila Monsters prefer rocky desert habitats with sparse brush or succulent plant life. Look for them near intermittent streams and farm irrigation systems, which they use as a water source.
Gila Monsters are venomous, but they rely more on their powerful crushing jaws to subdue their prey. They eat small mammals, birds and their eggs, lizards, insects, and carrion. While they primarily stay on the ground, Gila Monsters will climb rocks or trees searching for food like small birds in nests.
If you find a Gila Monster, observe this dangerous reptile from a safe distance!
Though it isn’t fatal, the Gila Monster’s Bite is excruciating. They have small, razor-sharp teeth that dig into the skin and inject their venom. Unfortunately, there’s no anti-venom or treatment for the effects of the bite. People who’ve been bitten by a Gila Monster describe the pain as hot lava coursing through their veins!
The effects can last for hours or days, depending on how much venom someone is exposed to.
There are two subspecies of this fascinating lizard in Arizona: The Banded Gila Monster, H.s. cinctum, and the Reticulate Gila Monster, H.s. suspectum.
As their names suggest, they’re easily identifiable by the type of pattern on their back. Banded Gila Monsters with a striped pattern of crossbars are less common but have a greater range. Fishnet-patterned Reticulate Gila Monsters are more prevalent but limited in range.
Do you need additional help identifying lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these lizards have you seen in Arizona?
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Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other guides!