50 Common LIZARDS Found in the United States! (ID Guide)
“What kinds of lizards can you find in the United States?”
I was amazed by the number of lizards in the United States – well over 150 species!
Since it would be impossible to list them all in one article, I chose the most common and interesting lizards to share with you.
Today, you’ll learn about 50 different kinds of lizards in the United States.
Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other guides!
31 FROGS Found in the United States! (ID Guide)
34 Types of TURTLES in The USA! (Both aquatic and land)
50 Kinds of SNAKES That Live in the United States! (Includes venomous species)
#1. Six-Lined Racerunner
- Aspidoscelis sexlineata
- 2.25 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- “Dark fields,” or broad stripes in between lighter stripes on whiptails, are brown to black.
- 6-8 light stripes vary in color from white or yellow to gray-blue.
- In males, coloring is much brighter, with greens on the back and light turquoise on the belly.
The Six-Lined Racerunner has the widest range of all lizards in the United States.
They thrive in varied habitats, including grassland, rocky terrain, wooded areas, and even floodplains. So, you have a good chance of seeing one as long as you’re within their range!
Six-Lined Racerunners are insectivores, and their primary food source is termites. However, they also eat beetles, ants, and spiders, so these small whiptails can be handy to have around if you have a pest problem.
The Six-Lined Racerunner lives up to its name, clocking speeds at up to 18 miles per hour! They have no problem outmaneuvering predators and curious humans!
#2. 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 the United States 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.
#3. 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 widespread spiny lizard in the United States.
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!
#4. Western Fence Lizard
- Sceloporus occidentalis
- 2.25 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Black, gray, or dark brown coloring with uneven lighter blotches.
- The sides of the belly are blue, and the backs of the limbs are orange or yellow.
If you see a dark lizard on the ground or a fence, chances are you’ve found a Western Fence Lizard.
They’re the most commonly seen lizard within their range, and you can spot them on fenceposts, lumber piles, and even the sides of buildings! They aren’t picky about their habitat and live in most ecosystems except for the desert.
Western Fence Lizard Range Map:
A fascinating talent of Western Fence Lizards is that they can help lower YOUR risk of Lyme disease.
This spiny lizard’s blood can actually kills the Lyme Bacteria that many ticks carry! So once an infected tick feeds on the lizard’s blood, they’re cured!
#5. Eastern Fence Lizard
- Sceloporus undulatus
- 1.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloration is highly varied – grayish-white, brown, reddish, and nearly black are all common.
- Females have dark, wavy lines across the back. Males have two patches of blue on the throat.
You’ll likely find the Eastern Fence Lizard in the United States in open forests with plenty of fallen logs and debris to hide in. They’re most active during the early morning before it gets too hot.
Eastern Fence Lizards eat twice per day, and their diet is made up of insects like ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. They are foragers, which means they’ll leave their homes searching for food but often return to the same general area at night.
In the United States, the Eastern Fence Lizard has adapted to a small but dangerous threat – imported fire ants!
Bites from fire ants can kill an Eastern Fence Lizard in less than an hour. To combat these non-native insects, these spiny lizards have adapted longer arms and legs, thicker skin, as well as new behaviors like climbing trees to stay out of harm’s way.
#6. 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 the United States!
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!
#7. Prairie Lizard
- Sceloporus consobrinus
- 3.5 to 7.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is light reddish-brown with a light brown stripe down the spine.
- Orange or red coloring on the lips and chin is sometimes present.
Look for Prairie Lizards in the United States in habitats with lots of places to perch, including open forests, tall grass fields, or even dunes. Their diet is made up of insects and spiders they can easily subdue.
Prairie Lizard Range Map:
These spiny lizards are one of the best climbers in their family! In the United States, Prairie Lizards spend most of their time off the ground perched in trees, on fences, and even on sunflowers.
In addition to climbing, Prairie Lizards can run so fast that they’re hard to catch. If you see one, you’ll probably have more luck observing from a distance than trying to get up close!
#8. 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 the United States 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.
#9. 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 the United States!
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.
#10. 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 the United States 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!
#11. Coal Skink
- Plestiodon anthracinus
- Adults are up to 7 inches long.
- Four light stripes run the length of the body and a portion of the tail.
- Juveniles are sometimes all black with no markings.
- During the breeding season, some males develop reddish blotches on the sides of the head.
Coal Skinks are one of the most secretive, shy skinks in the United States!
They are hard to find because they spend much of their time under rocks, leaf litter, or fallen logs. Coal Skinks prefer moist, humid areas and live on hillsides with nearby streams.
If you spot a Coal Skink, you can identify it by the lack of a middle stripe on its back.
Two subspecies, the Northern Coal Skink (P.a. anthracinus) and the Southern Coal Skink (P.a. pluvialis), are scattered throughout the US.
#12. Common Five-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon fasciatus
- Adults are up to 8.75 inches long.
- 5 stripes are most apparent in hatchlings and fade as the skinks grow.
- Males have orange-red coloring on the jaw during the breeding season.
- Hatchlings are black with light stripes. The black coloring often fades to gray, and the lighter stripes darken.
Look for Common Five-Lined Skinks in the United States in wooded areas near rotting stumps, outcrops of rock, and sometimes piles of boards or sawdust. Its diet consists of spiders, beetles, crickets, and other insects.
Females attend to their eggs throughout the incubation period.
They spend almost all of their time defending and caring for the eggs until they hatch!
If you happen to come across a nest, you may notice the mother curled up on top of or around the eggs. She also rolls the eggs to maintain their humidity, moves them back to the nest if they become disturbed, and even eats eggs that aren’t viable!
#13. Southeastern Five-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon inexpectatus
- Adults are up to 8.5 inches long.
- 5 light stripes on the body; the overall pattern is most prominent in hatchlings and young individuals.
- The head is brown striped with orange-red, and the tail is purplish, even in adults.
- The stripe pattern consists of one thin stripe in the middle of the back with two dark stripes outlined in white along the sides.
These skinks live in the United States in dry, forested areas.
You may also find them on islands with little vegetation. Southeastern Five-Lined Skinks prefer large insects like grasshoppers as prey.
Some people consider Southeastern Five-Lined Skinks venomous and often refer to them as scorpions.
However, they are harmless to humans and deliver a non-venomous bite only if they feel threatened.
Rest assured that if you find a Southeastern Five-Lined Skink, the only danger is that you might be nipped on the finger!
#14. Broad-Headed Skink
- Plestiodon laticeps
- Adults are up to 12.75 inches long.
- Coloring in males is uniform brown or olive. Females often keep some form of stripes that are more apparent in hatchlings.
- The tail is gray in adults and blue in young.
- Males develop orange-red coloring on the jawline during the breeding season. Sometimes the entire head turns bright orange.
Look for Broad-Headed Skinks in the United States in swamp forests, woodlands, or vacant lots with debris.
You can easily recognize this species by its triangular head!
Broad-Headed Skinks are one of the few skink species at home among trees! They will often climb trees for cover and protection from predators. They forage on the ground for their food, searching leaf litter and debris for insects and spiders.
#15. Southern Prairie Skink
- Plestiodon obtusirostris
- Adults are up to 8 inches long.
- Coloring is brown to tan with a dark stripe bordered in white along each side.
- The stripes usually fade with age, and older, larger individuals may be almost uniformly brown.
- Hatchlings and young have blue tails.
The Southern Prairie Skink prefers streambeds for its habitat, and you can generally find them near clumps of prickly pear cactus. They are quick to hide from predators and eat small insects. Because of their skittish nature, it can be hard to find this species in the wild.
Some scientists consider the Southern Prairie Skink and the Northern Prairie Skink subspecies. But their ranges don’t overlap, and they’re different enough in appearance that full species status is generally given to both.
#16. Northern Prairie Skink
- Plestiodon septentrionalis
- Adults are up to 9 inches long.
- Their coloring is olive-brown with multiple light stripes bordered with dark brown.
- Some individuals have a single stripe in the middle of the back, while others have a pair of stripes.
- The belly is generally a lighter brown than the back and uniform in color.
You’re likely to find Northern Prairie Skinks in open plains and along streambeds in the United States. They are one of the hardiest species of skinks and can survive extremely cold temperatures.
Northern Prairie Skinks have a fascinating way of staying alive during winter. They burrow below the frost line to stay warm enough not to freeze!
Some scientists consider the Northern Prairie Skink and the Southern Prairie Skink subspecies. However, they don’t live in the same area, and their appearance is so different that most references give both full species status.
#17. Little Brown Skink
- Scincella lateralis
- Adults are up to 5.75 inches long.
- Coloring is golden-brown to almost black with dark stripes that usually blend in with the main body color.
- The belly is white, sometimes with a yellowish cast.
In the United States, they’re often called Ground Skinks because they live on the forest floor.
They can also be found in gardens and urban areas with lots of debris or litter to hide in.
Believe it or not, Little Brown Skinks have the interesting talent of seeing with their eyes closed! But honestly, it just looks like their eyes are closed. Technically, they have a window in their lower eyelids that allows them to see at all times.
That’s a very handy adaptation for one of the smallest reptiles in the United States. The Little Brown Skink has many predators, including snakes, larger lizards, and birds of prey. When they try to sneak up on a “sleeping” Little Brown Skink, often the skink can run away using the element of surprise!
#18. 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 the United States 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.
#19. 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 the United States 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 the United States that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#20. Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma douglasii
- 1.25 to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- A single row of fringe scales lines the sides of the body.
The Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard is commonly found in the United States in rocky terrain with pockets of fine, loose soil. It prefers open plains with sagebrush or open pine forests.
These horned lizards are more tolerant of colder temperatures than most other lizards. They’re even able to live in mountainous regions at elevations of up to 11,000 feet!
Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:
Pygmy Short-Horned Lizards are almost always found near ants! This is because ants are their primary food source, and they often lie in wait outside colonies.
Its primary defense against predators is to bury itself in the soil with a “shimmying” motion, moving from side to side until it’s buried in the sand! Check out the video below to see how they do it!
#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 the United States. 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. Slender Glass Lizard
- Ophisaurus attenuatus
- 22 to 47 inches long.
- Coloring is generally brown to black, with whitish markings in the middle of the scales.
- Younger individuals have dark stripes along the back and sides, and older individuals develop faint crossbands.
Slender Glass Lizards live in dry grasslands and open forests in the United States.
They eat insects, spiders, small rodents, and small lizards. However, unlike snakes, they do not have flexible jaws, which means they can only eat prey smaller than their head!
Glass lizards are named for their extremely fragile tails, which can break off even without being touched. Slender Glass Lizards are rarely found with their original tail intact because they break so often! If you notice that the end of its tail is tan with no stripes, you can be sure the lizard lost its original tail.
You’re likely to find a Slender Glass Lizard in animal burrows or piles of debris.
There are two subspecies:
- Western Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus attenuatus) have shorter tails.
- Eastern Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus longicaudus) have longer tails.
#23. Island Glass Lizard
- Ophisaurus compressus
- 15 to 24 inches long.
- Coloring is brown to tan with dark lines – one on each side and one down the middle of the back.
- The tail is less fragile and more often found intact than with other glass lizards.
Island Glass Lizards in the United States prefer sandy, loose soil in pine scrub forests, coastal islands, and inland pine woods.
Most of the information we know about the Island Glass Lizard is based on information about other types of glass lizards. This is because they are what’s called a “cryptic species,” meaning it’s scarce and studied so infrequently that virtually nothing specific is known about them.
We know that Island Glass Lizards are slightly less prone to tail breakage than others because of those that are found, most still have their original tail.
#24. Eastern Glass Lizard
- Ophisaurus ventralis
- 18 to 43 inches long.
- Coloring is greenish to black, with a light yellow or tan belly.
- Light-colored dots or dashes form irregular rows on the back; no stripes are present.
The Eastern Glass Lizard is at home in many habitats in the United States, including grasslands and pine forests, tropical hardwood groves, and wet meadows.
They eat insects and other invertebrates and forage for food both above ground and below.
Although they can create their own burrows, they use the burrows of other animals more often. For example, it’s common to find Eastern Glass Lizards in the burrows of small rodents like mice and voles or snakes and other lizards.
#25. Mimic Glass Lizard
- Ophisaurus mimicus
- 15 to 26 inches long.
- Coloring is brown to tan with a dark middle stripe that fades toward the tail.
- Smaller than other glass lizards.
Although their name implies they are impostors, Mimic Glass Lizards are part of the same family as other glass lizards.
Mimic Glass Lizards are rare to find in the United States!
These almost impossible-to-find reptiles are usually smaller and darker in color than other glass lizards.
Not much is known about this species other than their general habitat preference of pine forests and grassland. However, one confirmed predator, the Black Racer Snake, can be found in the same habitat and hunts Mimic Glass Lizards.
#26. Florida Wormlizard
- Rhineura floridana
- 7 to 11 inches long.
- The coloring is pinkish-tan without markings.
- The head is lizard-like but with a sunken lower jaw.
This species is arguably the WEIRDEST lizard in the United States!
Its scales encircle its body like thin bands, giving it the appearance of a giant earthworm. It’s a fossorial species, meaning it spends almost all of its time underground.
One adaptation to its underground life is its vestigial eyes, which are unusable and covered by scales!
Florida Wormlizards are almost impossible to find in their habitat because they’re almost always underground, but you might be able to catch a glimpse of one on the side of the road after heavy rain.
#27. California Legless Lizard
- Anniella pulchra
- 4.5 to 7 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Two color morphs exist:
- Silver, gray, or beige with a dark line on the back and a yellow belly.
- Black above without lines and with dark blotches on the belly.
- Their eyes are very small.
North American Legless Lizards are small, burrowing lizards that can definitely be confused with snakes at first glance. Some differences between these lizards and true snakes are their movable eyelids, fixed jaws, and lack of a forked tongue.
Legless lizards prefer habitats with sandy, loose soil.
You’re likely to find them on beaches or river banks. Legless lizards are adapted for burrowing and spend most of their time underground, but they come to the surface at dusk or nighttime to feed. They eat insects, spiders, and small moths.
Legless lizards in the United States are considered a species of greatest concern.
Their populations are severely reduced because of agricultural and housing development, as well as invasive plants. Other threats to their survival include golf course development, off-road vehicle use, trampling by humans, and sand mining.
Four closely related species of Anniella pulchra have been given full species status recently. Research into differences in their DNA profile and visual appearance has made this possible. The 4 new species, which only live in California are:
- Southern California Legless Lizard (Anniella stebbinsi): Coloring is light olive-brown with a dark stripe down the back.
- Bakersfield Legless Lizard (Anniella grinnelli): Coloring is olive with a single light stripe down the back.
- Southern Sierra Legless Lizard (Anniella campi): Coloring is yellow-gray with darker stripes on the back and sides.
- Temblor Legless Lizard (Anniella alexanderae): Coloring is pale olive on the back with gray sides.
#28. Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
- Gambelia wislizenii
- Up to17 inches long, including the tail.
- This species is large, with a round body and tail, and a large head.
- Coloring is gray, pink, brown, or yellowish-brown with dark spots.
- Long-Nosed Leopard Lizards have two color phases:
- Dark phase – coloring is nearly as dark as the spots on its back, hiding them from view.
- Light phase – coloring is as above with spots clearly defined.
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizards live in dry climates with little vegetation. They prefer rocky outcroppings for basking and avoid dense grass or shrubs because it limits their running ability.
This lizard is quick!
It runs on its back legs in a short burst to escape predators and to ambush prey. One report even says the Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard can reach Mach-1 or the speed of sound – but this could be a bit of an exaggeration. 🙂
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizards are ambush predators by nature. But, they’re also omnivorous and have one of the most varied diets of all the lizards in the United States! Their diet includes soft leaves, blossoms, berries, insects of all kinds, spiders, lizards, small rodents, and even juvenile snakes!
#29. 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.
#30. 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 the United States! They rarely live longer than three years.
#31. Green Anole
- Anolis carolinensis
- 5 to 9 inches long.
- This species has an elongated head, pointed snout, and round tail.
- The coloring ranges from all green to mottled green and brown to all brown with a white belly and lips.
- The dewlap, or extendable throat fan, is usually pink but ranges in color: white, light gray, magenta, blue, and purple are common.
Green Anoles are the ONLY species of anole native to the United States.
They primarily live in trees and are excellent climbers. Look for them high in trees and shrubs in forested areas or on buildings and fences in urban settings. The introduction of the Brown Anole has altered their behavior, making them almost exclusively arboreal.
An invasive species, the Cuban Green Anole (Anolis porcatus), is so similar to our native Green Anole that DNA testing is the only way to distinguish between them! The two species interbreed in areas where they both occur. Cuban Green Anoles in the United States have a limited range, so if you find a Green Anole, it’s most likely native!
Anoles are sometimes called American Chameleons because of their ability to change color. Although they aren’t in the same family as chameleons, they adjust their coloring in response to many factors, including emotion, activity level, temperature, and humidity.
Green Anoles and other species of anoles have dewlaps, which are colorful throat fans they can extend to communicate. This feature makes them look a bit like tiny dinosaurs! =)
#32. Brown Anole
- Anolis sagrei
- 5 to 8.5 inches long.
- Brown Anoles have a stocky build and a slightly flattened tail.
- The coloring is brown, sometimes with yellow spots – this species is never green.
- The dewlap is red-orange with white borders.
Brown Anoles are the most widely introduced anole in the United States!
Look for them on tree trunks and rocks close to the ground or in open grassy areas.
The Brown Anoles’ native range is Cuba, the Bahamas, and Little Cayman Island. Their population and range exploded when they were introduced in shipments of cultivated plants in the 1970s.
They established themselves so quickly that native Green Anoles had to change their behavior to survive. Because Brown Anoles eat Green Anoles and compete with them for food and territory, they’ve taken over ground habitats and pushed Green Anoles up into the trees.
#33. 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 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’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!
#34. 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 United 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 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!
#35. 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 the United States 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.
#36. 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 the United States 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 the United States. 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)
#37. 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 prefer flatlands and canyons with plenty of rock outcrops and boulders.
They are nocturnal and prone to hiding in deep crevices, so you’re fortunate if you find one in the wild! They also have a limited range, which is only in a small area in southern California!
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’ll 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!
#38. 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 US: 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.
#39. Florida Reef Gecko
- Sphaerodactylus notatus
- 2 to 2.25 inches long.
- Coloring is brown with small dark spots that fade with age.
- Females have three broad stripes on the head that are dark with a lighter middle section.
The Florida Reef Gecko is a native species found ONLY in Southern Florida in the USA.
Typically, they can be seen in pine forests, vacant lots, and buildings. Unfortunately, they tend to hide under debris and can be difficult to spot!
Florida Reef Geckos are also sometimes called Brown-speckled Sphaeros.
#40. Texas Banded Gecko
- Coleonyx brevis
- 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.
- Coloring is yellowish-tan with dark, wide bands crossing the body and tail.
- The scales are granular, giving the surface of the skin a sandpaper-like appearance.
Texas Banded Geckos are common in desert grassland and open woodland with plenty of rocks. You’re likely to find them near hillsides and canyons and even on roadways at night. Though they’re good climbers, this species is mostly terrestrial and climbs rocks only to find shelter.
Compared to the size of its body, the female Texas Banded Gecko lays enormous eggs! They are often much wider than the gecko’s body. As you can imagine, the clutch size is tiny; usually, only one or two eggs!
Despite the small reproductive numbers of this species, they are abundant in their range.
#41. 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 United States is NOT native! The Mediterranean House Gecko was introduced to the United States via imported plants carrying their egg clutches. They’re 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’re considered an “urbanized” species, which means they’re 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 the United States 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 the United States, they’re so well-recognized that they belong on any list of geckos in our area.
#42. Zebra-Tailed Lizard
- Callisaurus draconides
- 2.5 to 4 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Zebra-Tailed Lizards are distinctly patterned, with white dots on the back and black and white stripes on the sides and tail.
- Coloring is mainly black and white with a yellow-orange wash along the sides of the body.
- This species has very long arms and legs, which help it run at top speed.
Zebra-Tailed Lizards prefer the hard-packed, open ground of desert washes, hardpan, and rock surfaces. They often live where plants are scarce and like open areas with plenty of room to run.
The Zebra-Tailed Lizard curls its tail over its back and dashes forward at incredible speeds when it runs!
This gives predators a brief look at the bold markings on the underside of its tail. Then, when the lizard stops running, it hides the pattern to confuse its predator. What a crafty way to avoid becoming lunch!
#43. Northern Alligator Lizard
- Elgaria coerulea
- 2.75-5.5 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Coloring is variable: gray, olive, brown, rust-red, greenish, or blue are common.
- Dark crossbands are common, and sometimes a middle stripe is present.
Northern Alligator Lizards in the United States are incredibly varied in appearance.
The four subspecies all have slightly different characteristics and different ranges. If you find a Northern Alligator Lizard in the wild, the easiest way to tell its subspecies is by location.
All the subspecies prefer woodland and forested areas in a damp, cool climate. They eat insects, ticks, centipedes, slugs, and spiders. Yum!
The four subspecies of the Northern Alligator Lizard are:
- San Francisco Alligator Lizard (E.c. coerulea) Large, dark blotches appear on the back and sometimes look like crossbands.
- Shasta Alligator Lizard (E.c. shastensis) The most variable in color and most colors besides brown and gray are Shasta Alligator Lizards.
- Northwestern Alligator Lizard (E.c. principis) Smaller than other subspecies with a broad, tan stripe on the back.
- Sierra Alligator Lizard (E.c. palmeri) The only visual difference is the number of scale rows on the back – location is your best tool for identification.
#44. 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!
#45. 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.
#46. 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 the United States 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 the United States. It’s just very good at hiding!
#47. Banded Rock Lizard
- Petrosaurus mearnsi
- 2.5 to 4.25 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
- Banded Rock Lizards are flat-bodied and thick with large limbs and a large head.
- Coloring is olive, brown, or gray with bluish-white spots. Wavy, dark crossbars on the back turn to defined bands on the tail.
- Males have two color phases: their spots become bluer around females, and their throat is more highly patterned.
- Gravid or pregnant females develop orange coloring above the eyes and on the throat.
The Banded Rock Lizard is the best rock-climbing lizard in the United States!
It can easily scale rock surfaces and even climb the underside of boulders and cliffs! Banded Rock Lizards prefer narrow, shady canyons with plenty of large rocks to show off their skill.
They are a wary, nervous species and will often climb under rocks to hide from threats. If you find a Banded Rock Lizard and manage to catch it, beware – it often bites when handled. You’re better off to observe from a distance and watch this fascinating lizard climb like a pro!
#48. 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 the United States 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.
#49. 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 the United States throughout its desert habitat. You can find it on nearly every hillside, lava flow, and outcropping in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.
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.
#50. 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 the United States!
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 the United States: 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 the United States?
Leave a comment below!