Four lizards have been identified at Quail Ridge Reserve. Another three lizard species may also be present on the Reserve: the coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), the sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus), and the northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coeruleus).

Southern alligator lizard; Photo by Shane WaddellSouthern alligator lizard, Elgaria multicarinaus (Anguidae Family) – These large (7-18 cm, 3-7 inches) lizards have broad heads, tan or brown coloration with small black-brown rings around the body, and white/grey venters. They are found throughout the Reserve, and frequently may be seen sunning themselves in the road as it begins to warm up in April and May. When captured they frequently will give powerful bites, roll, and expel feces.


Whiptail; Photo courtesy of Dr. Daniel L. Geiger© 2004 Dr. Daniel L. GeigerCalifornia whiptail lizards, Cnemidophorus tigris (Teiidae Family) – Whiptails are large (6-11 cm, 2-4.5 inches) lizards that become active on the Reserve around early June. They are frequently seen in areas of chaparral, particularly the stretch of road just north of Fordyce Pond. They are fast, active lizards that rarely sit still. They have pointed snouts, and have eight tan, often indistinct, stripes on their back. Hatchlings have bright blue tails.


Western Skink; Photo by Mike BenardWestern skinks, Eumeces skiltonianus (Scincidae Family) – These lizards have a broad brown stripe down their back, and two very distinct light yellow stripes running from their snout over their eyes and down their back. Juveniles have bright blue tail tips. As the skinks age the tail tip color fades. Adults also develop some reddish coloration on their heads and venter during the breeding season.


Western fence lizard; Photo by Mike BenardWestern fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis (Iguanidae Family) – Western fence lizards are the most commonly encountered lizard on the Reserve. For their body size, these lizards appear more robust than the other lizards on the Reserve. They have variable dorsal patterns that may range from marked chevron type patterns on the back to pale striping, to nearly entirely black individuals with only a faint dorsal pattern. The most distinguishing feature on these lizards is their blue bellies. The blue belly and throat pattern is most vibrant in adult males, although females have this coloration as well. Males defend territories. They have a varied communication system, consisting of a series of head bobs, pushups, shaking movements, and dorsoventral flattening of the body and exposing their blue color pattern. These behaviors are used in establishing and maintaining territory and courtship; they may also be used to signal to predators. Hatchlings begin to appear on the Reserve in late July-early August.


Photo Credits: Title, Treefrog, Skink, and Fence Lizard (Mike Benard), Alligator Lizard (Shane Waddell), Whiptail (Dr. Daniel L. Geiger). For more pictures see:

This page last updated: July 5, 2005  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email:

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