37 Different Types of Lizards in California

Types Of Lizards In California
Image credit: California Herps

California has more of everything, including the unbelievable variety of reptiles and amphibians that call the Golden State home.

From the massive alligator lizard to the rock-dwelling Western Skink, here are types of lizards in California you probably didn’t know existed.

Still, you should be aware of them, so you don’t run into them accidentally! If you’re a reptile lover, you’ll be amazed by California’s different types of lizards.

The San Diego horned lizard is called horned because of the two small horns on its head, and this is just one of many kinds of lizards in California. 

Now let’s discuss more different types of lizards in California. This list includes a variety of lizards who call California home.

These lizards range from relatively small geckos to hefty iguanas; they live all around you, so check them out!

Table of Contents

1. Banded Gila Monster

The Banded Gila Monster is one of the few lizards that is poisonous and is one of the types of lizards in California. When agitated, it will hiss to create noise and shoot blood from its eyes which can contain poison. 

Also, they have large claws, which allow them to grip tightly onto their prey for lengthy periods until it suffocates or dies from a heart attack. 

The Banded Gila Monster is a rare lizard found in the California desert in the Southwest United States. The Gila monster has an average lifespan of ten years in captivity, but wild specimens may live only five years.

2. Western Fence Lizard

The Western Fence Lizard is the most widespread lizard in the United States and is what we commonly call a brown lizard. They’re also sometimes called tree lizards because they’re known to climb trees and fences. 

Meanwhile, they spend much time living in trees and don’t rely on water sources like creeks or ponds. They can be found living in just about any habitat with large amounts of vegetation to hide behind!

3. Baja California Brush Lizard

Many lizards exist in California, but did you know they exist as far north as Santa Clara County? One lizard species even lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains! 

The Baja California Brush Lizard often called an Amargosa Lizard, or Mojave Sand Lizard, is found exclusively in the extreme southeastern corner of California and not one inch outside of it.

It’s a tiny creature that only grows about 10 inches long. Because it’s relatively new to science (first appearing in 1998), we know very little about it. 

However, we know that its color ranges from a white underside with brown spotting on its back to a yellowish-orange color on top. And both colors can have varying shades.

4. Southern Alligator Lizard

The southern alligator lizard is surprisingly one of the common lizards in California, as the species was once spread across most of the state.

This is because these lizards have been outcompeted by other less benign species that are now more dominant. 

One of these species, eastern fence lizards, seems to have overtaken much of the southern alligator’s old territory.

If you live in Southern California and want to see one of these lizards, heading east from your home toward the Pacific Coast would be easiest. 

Therefore, you’ll probably come across at least a few. They may be farther inland towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains if they’re not there.

5. Common Side-Blotched Lizard

Living up to its name, the Common Side-Blotched Lizard is one of the most common types of lizards in California.

They are typically found around chaparral habitats, with plenty of cacti and rocks for shelter. Adult males can grow up to six inches long. 

When it comes to mating season, common male side-blots are often seen trying to impress females. This happens by bobbing their head up and down or making digging motions with their body as they try to produce a burrow for the pair to nest in.

If the female is interested, she will lay her eggs, and then he’ll take over guarding them until they hatch a few weeks later.

6. San Diego Legless Lizard

California is home to a wide range of lizards, some more common than others. The San Diego legless lizard is one of the different types of lizards in California that is relatively new to science. 

Meanwhile, It was only discovered in 1986 when its delicate tracks were spotted on a golf course near Mission Valley, CA. 

It is about the size of your palm and can be easily distinguished by its slender body, small limbs, and characteristic bell-shaped tail. 

Also, It’s mainly nocturnal and can survive by eating bugs and scraps from bird feeders. It’s active year round but spends its time buried underground or tucked into rock crevices during cold months.

7. Baja California Collared Lizard

The Baja California Collared Lizard is brown, grey, and black with red striping on its body. The lizard has a dark stripe on the sides of its neck that may warn predators when it extends or displays the underside of its neck during an attack. 

Males have a bright orange or red throat fan, which they display during courtship. This lizard occurs only along the Pacific coast in southern Baja California and western Sonora, Mexico. 

Furthermore, It lives only in sandy-soiled vegetated areas. Such as coastal plains, dunes, sand washes, and low hillsides where it searches for prey. Such as insects, spiders, and worms.

8. Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

The leopard long-nosed lizard lives in a wide variety of habitats, including coastal scrub, chaparral, desert, oak woodland, coniferous forest, and meadows.

These types of lizards in California are omnivores that feed on small invertebrates and the fruit and flowers of plants.

Meanwhile, females lay eggs on sand or dirt with an average clutch size of two to five. They may mate during spring and summer, but eggs are typically laid from March through September.

The leopard’s long-nosed lizard is more difficult to spot than other lizards in California because it blends into its surroundings very well.

9. Western Banded Gecko

The Western Banded Gecko is one of the most common and popular lizards native to Southern California. They are classified as a relict species, meaning they live on land now inhabited by humans who disturbed their habitat. 

In addition, these lizards in California have elongated toes, making them fast climbers and strong jumpers. Giving them excellent camouflage and allowing them to quickly hurry up trees or over walls for safety.

Also, Western Banded Geckos can drop off the branches of trees like ropes as a defense mechanism to escape predators below.

Females lay clutches of eggs around twice a year and may lay several clutches per season depending on the food availability and time of year.

10. Common Chuckwalla

The Chuckwalla, a type of lizard that you may or may not have heard of, is one of California’s most bizarre-looking lizards. It is found living in the deserts of Southern California. 

Unlike many other lakes, the Chuckwalla can grow up to 2 feet long and has a carapace (shell) made of plates and spines.

The name Chuckwalla comes from a mix of two indigenous words for lizard: chuck, meaning alligator, and wala meaning lousy medicine, which refers to the reptile’s venomous bite.

11. Desert Horned Lizard

The desert-horned lizard is a unique little creature. This beautiful lizard can grow up to 8 inches long and has a complex social structure, including females that stay on the nest to protect their eggs, males that venture out to mate with as many females as possible, and cooperative defense from predators like hawks and coyotes. 

The Desert Horned Lizard lives primarily in desert regions of the southwest. It only grows about 7 inches long but is one of the more intimidating lizards around. Earning its other name, horned toad lizard.

12. Desert Iguana

The desert iguana is a type of lizard native to California. These lizards in California have four toes on each front foot and five on each back foot and usually sport dark-brown or black skin.

They are often seen basking in the sun, but if you find one, they aren’t there to socialize, and they’re looking for a snack!

The desert iguana lives by its namesake: arid climates where it searches for any plants that might provide moisture. It’s perfectly suited to a sandy habitat with rocks, though it can also survive in other types of terrain. 

This reptile loves hot weather, so you’ll often find them out during the day. And seeking shelter at night when temperatures drop considerably.

13. Zebra-Tailed Lizard

Some of the world’s most exciting lizards live here in our Golden State. The lizard pictured above is a Zebra Tailed Lizard belonging to the Teiidae family. They are well-known for their unique markings resembling zebra stripes on their backs. 

They typically grow to about 10 inches long and live between 3-4 years as adults. Unfortunately, Zebra Tails have been heavily hunted for their meat by people in parts of the world.

14. Banded Rock Lizard

The Banded Rock Lizard is a member of the Cordylidae family. Found primarily on coastal rocks, the Banded Rock Lizard typically has two pairs of bold bands running from its nose to tail, with smaller bands between them. 

These types of lizards in California have blue-gray scales that can be shiny or have an iridescent luster. They are considered omnivores, eating various foods, including small plants and other lizards. Most adults reach just over 4 inches in length, with the occasional individual reaching 6 inches.

15. Coast Horned Lizard

The coast-horned lizard is one of California’s more significant, more robust types of lizards. It can grow to 8 inches long and live over 20 years in captivity. Its diet consists of ants, which it goes hunting for at night. 

The horned lizard has a couple of natural defenses that make it an excellent survival tool for the hot deserts that it lives in. Its scales reflect heat, and it can shoot blood from its eyes.

Also, the Coast Horned Lizard will start defending itself with its blood if you step on or corner it. This defense includes inflating their bodies, so they take up more space. And secreting from their eyes a bright red liquid that tastes extremely bitter.

16. Coachella Valley Fringe-Toed Lizard

The Coachella Valley Fringe-Toed Lizard (Uma scoparia) is a small, harmless lizard found in the arid desert scrub of the Coachella Valley and surrounding foothills in southern California.

They are familiar residents of washes that receive ephemeral flows. But they can also be found among boulders and challenging pack slopes on hillsides. 

As their name suggests, they have fringes at the end of their toes to assist with balance while climbing over loose dirt and gravel. During the daytime, they shelter under debris or rocks to avoid the intense heat.

17. Flat-Tail Horned Lizard

California has one of the world’s largest and most diverse reptile populations. The Golden State is home to over 34 species of lizards alone, and that doesn’t include many snakes and other types of reptiles! 

The Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard is one of the different types of lizards in California that can be found roaming Southern California desert regions. As well as parts of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Baja California (Mexico). 

They have sharp claws and spikes on its tail for protection purposes. This lizard is adept at defending itself against any potential predator or competitor.

18. Yellow-Backed Spiny Lizard

The yellow-backed spiny lizard is a spiny lizard found only in coastal scrub habitats on the coast of Santa Barbara County, CA.

They are often seen near rocks and plants because this is their main foraging ground. The yellow-backed spiny lizard lives about 7 years and does not grow much more than six inches long.

Its head has two large scales with reddish borders and an orange body with a pale underbelly. Its rear feet have one large scale on the heel region that gives it its name: Spiny lizards or Sceloporus.

19. Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard

The Mojave fringe-toed lizard is endemic to the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Due to overgrazing and environmental disturbances. These types of lizards in California have declined and are currently classified as threatened species. 

They only eat during specific times of the day. So any disturbance of their environment that affects those times will lead to decreased feeding and cause a decrease in population size. 

The Mojave fringe-toed lizard is a nocturnal insectivore, so it lives off ants, bugs, crickets, scorpions, and other desert insects; it prefers to eat under cover of darkness because it hunts at night while avoiding predators like birds or raccoons. Adult males defend their territory with lunges, tail flicks, and push-ups – like kangaroos!

20. Ornate Tree Lizard

The Ornate Tree Lizard can only be found in a few counties around Southern California. These lizards in California are so named because they are the most common lizards seen around ornamental plants. 

Also, this lizard is often used as bait to catch other types of laves because their camouflage makes them hard to find.

Though it may look like the tree is alive when they’re sleeping, if you see one and try to touch it, it will quickly change its position or run away from you.

21. Gilbert Skink

The Gilbert Skink is a tiny, brown, fast-moving lizard that hides in the underbrush and rarely ventures out during the day.

The Skink has a pointed head, long tail, and long toes with horny scales, which gives it traction against slippery surfaces. 

The Diet of Gilbert’s Skink includes insects and small arthropods. They are primarily active at night when they can be seen scurrying along the ground or low vegetation. They are often found near brushy areas where they feed on insects such as beetles and ants. 

22. Western Whiptail

The Western Whiptail is a member of the Lizard family and gets its name from the whippy tail, which can flick fast enough to give predators the slip.

These types of lizards in California have tan to brown bodies with dark crossbands and reach up to 14 inches in length. 

They live throughout Southern California near oaks as well as chaparral scrublands. The Western Whiptail’s diet consists mainly of spiders, insects, and other small animals. 

Also, males typically only see two or three females per year while they travel across their territory in search of food; this is one reason why many males are very territorial.

The gestation period lasts between 90-150 days, and they may lay up to 5 clutches of eggs at a time before breeding again.

23. Western Skink

The Western Skink is one of California’s most common types of lizards. They are generally easy to spot, as they are giant lizards with yellowish stripes and patterns across their backs.

One way to tell if you’ve spotted a Western Skink is by looking for its tail, and they will often flick it around when they notice movement nearby.

In addition, you may also find that these lizards are more active during more relaxed and warmer months. Lastly, the Western Skink’s short legs allow them to stay out of reach in vegetation, rocks, or debris while they sit and wait for prey (smaller insects) to pass by close enough to catch!

24. Granite Spiny Lizard

The Granite Spiny Lizard is one of California’s most significant types of lizards. They usually have a cream color but can also be brown, green, or black. The underside of their tail has a pattern of white, yellow, and black dots. 

They have slender fingers that are too small to be seen without a magnifying glass. The Granite Spiny Lizard is not active during the day like most types of lizards in California. 

Infact, they are primarily nocturnal, so you’ll typically find them at night walking around on surfaces high up off the ground, looking for insects to eat.

These nocturnal habits make them much less visible to humans than other lizards that move around freely during the day.

25. California Legless Lizard

The California legless lizard is an integral part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. Often living close to or within its burrow system, they are found throughout the desert. 

The legless lizard’s thin body and green coloring help them blend in with their surroundings and make it difficult for predators to spot them. This reptile can range from 2-6 inches long, is lightweight, and has no visible limbs or legs. 

It does not have a long tail like some other lizards and spends most of its time underground or inside its burrow system.

These reptiles prefer being warm, which means that during winter months, when the air temperature drops below 45 degrees F. They are more active at night as opposed to during the day.

26. Great Basin Collared Lizard

The Great Basin Collared Lizard is a small lizard that ranges in color from blue-grey to brown. Its head has many spines, and its tail has red and white rings. 

They are found throughout the southwest region of the United States. Including most of Southern California (especially in the northern parts). 

Collared lizards are types of lizards in California that prefer sandy or loose soils so they can burrow quickly and escape predators.

They spend much of their time sunning themselves or hunting for food. The collared lizard’s diet consists mainly of insects and spiders. 

In addition, their primary defense is to run away. But if necessary, they will flick sand or excrete an odorous substance from their anal glands as a deterrent.

27. Barefoot Gecko

Hiking is a fantastic way to enjoy the natural beauty of the great state. There are some dangers that hikers need to be aware of, especially if they’re hiking with small children.

One type of danger is the ever-present risk of stepping on a scale-less animal or other surprise creature. I was hiking with my daughter in the Santa Monica Mountains when she shouted for me to come back and see the little lizard that had crossed our path. 

To my relief, it was just a lizard from a harmless family called barefoot geckos. These lizards are commonly found in southern and coastal regions in sunny climes and have webbed toes that help them climb through tree branches and shrubs.

28. Mediterranean House Gecko

The Mediterranean House Gecko is an introduced species thriving in San Diego County. It ranges in size from 2 to 3 inches and can vary significantly in color and pattern.

They typically inhabit buildings or other artificial structures but are sometimes found hiding under rocks or logs. 

In addition, they are primarily nocturnal but will come out to feed during the day, especially if they feel threatened.

In the evening, they search for bugs with their long tongues. As well as drink dew or even harvest water droplets from leaves of plants. 

Also, Mediterranean House Geckos shed their skin on average once every two weeks. As their name would suggest, they are not native to California, and there is some speculation about the arrival of these types of lizards in California. 

Some people believe that people either intentionally or accidentally released them into the environment where they were able to thrive.

A second theory suggests that these geckos were accidentally transported via cargo ships from the Middle East worldwide. Including Southern California due to their ability to cling tightly onto anything.

29. Northern Alligator Lizard

You might see an alligator lizard if you’re hiking through the southern or central California region. This type of lizard is about 6-8 inches long, is typically tan or dark brown, and has large spots that run along its back from the head to the tip of its tail. 

They live in dry areas and near forested regions at lower elevations in sunny open patches with sparse vegetation. Alligator lizards generally stay out during the daytime, but they will climb nearby trees for safety if threatened. 

Also, these lizards in California tend to move quickly and will often dive into the brush for cover if a predator approaches.

However, this is not a very common behavior among alligators, and they usually flee quickly when startled instead of taking a defensive posture as other lizards do.

30. Panamint Alligator Lizard

There are different types of lizards in California. Let’s start with the one most people don’t see: the Panamint Alligator Lizard. 

This elusive reptile is well adapted to living in the high desert country and can live up to 24 years! The Panamint Alligator Lizard prefers sandy slopes, creek beds, and bajadas from 2000 to 6000 feet. 

In addition, they will feed primarily on insects, small crustaceans, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and small rodents.

The Panamint Alligator lizards have long bodies, large heads, and strong jaws like their larger namesakes. 

Also, their color ranges from grayish-tan to brown, with blotches or stripes that may extend down their tail. The Panamint Alligator Lizard is very docile, as it does not bite humans unless provoked.

 It does not do well if it feels threatened. Because they quickly turn themselves over on their backs, waving their legs in the air as a defense mechanism.

31. Long-Tailed Brush Lizard

These lizards are about two to three feet long and are mostly brown, except for a white or black stripe running from the snout down to the lower tail. 

They can be found from south Texas up through Utah. As their name suggests, the Long-Tailed Brush lizards are often seen basking under bushes with their tails hanging off the ground. The brush is also named for its slow movement across vegetation. 

32. Southern Alligator Lizard

The Southern Alligator Lizard is usually olive green, but it has bright yellow spots on its back that make it look like an alligator when viewed from above. 

It also has rows of spikes down its back and tiny legs compared to other lizards. They are types of lizards in California, Arizona, New Mexico, South Texas, and Mexico.

33. Island Night Lizard

The island night lizard, also known as the American alligator lizard, is found in coastal and island areas of Southern California. They can be seen near ponds and small lakes where they are capable of swimming. 

Meanwhile, the giant lizard in its family is 7 to 9 inches long and has webbed toes, which aid it in swimming.

Like many other reptiles, the Island Night Lizard reproduces during fall and winter mating seasons with 2 or 3 eggs laid per clutch.

These lizards are very agile climbers but feed primarily on insects like ants, grasshoppers, and beetles, which makes them insect-control helpers for farmers that grow these crops.

34. Orange-Throated Whiptail

The Orange-throated Whiptail is a species of lizard that can be found in southern California. These lizards in California are often seen perched on plants or low to the ground basking in the sun. 

Their reddish head, belly, and orange throat can be distinguished from other lizards. The Orange-throated Whiptail will typically eat insects, spiders, mites, and other small invertebrates when it hunts.

35. Desert Night Lizard

Cnemidophorus nuchalis, also known as the Desert Night Lizard, is a subspecies of the ordinary night lizard. Its most distinguishable features are its lighter-colored belly and narrower body shape than its peers. 

The Desert Night Lizard is endemic to Arizona, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and southwest Texas; you can find it in some parts of southern California if you’re looking for it!

They usually live at higher elevations but may appear around Joshua Tree National Park or the Grand Canyon.

36. Brown Anole

The brown anole is one of California’s most common types of lizards. They can range from being a light tan to a dark brown color. They typically have bright green bellies and blue highlights on their back, with red dots on their bodies. 

These little creatures eat insects and spiders to survive, and they often thrive in small patches of woods or large yards with lots of vegetation.

Suppose you love gardening or planting trees in the backyard. The brown anole is always a welcome addition because it eats those pesky bugs that like to infest your plants!

37. Italian Wall Lizard

The Italian Wall Lizard is a species of Lagoa in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and North Africa. The lizard reaches 4-5 inches in length when fully grown.

They are an invasive species found in Los Angeles, California, where they have been known to feed on plants such as cacti.  

It has a dark to light tan body with a black line that circles its eyes, another that goes down its spine, and two rows of black spots along each side of the belly.

The underparts are lighter than the back, with an irregular pattern of yellow or brownish spots, which may be wavy lines or broken chevrons. 

Conclusion

California may be associated with sunny beaches and movie stars, but it’s also home to some of the unique animals in the world, including some genuinely unbelievable lizards.

It’s not surprising that many of California’s most popular hiking trails are located in these regions. That said, it’s essential to know what you’re looking for when you spot a lizard or two on your hike. 

Hopefully, these tips will help give you an idea of how to identify different types of lizards in California and why they may be essential members of the local wildlife community.

What is the Most Common Lizard in California?

Western Fence Lizard, Blue-tailed Skink, and California Horned Lizard are all common in the state. The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake is not a lizard but a native species of the Golden State.

Do Alligator Lizards in California Bite?

Alligator lizards can deliver a vicious and painful bite thanks to their vast heads and strong jaws.

What Kind of Lizard Resembles a Dragon?

The flying dragon, or Draco lizard (Draco Volans), is another name for them. This kind of lizard is tiny, only reaching a length of 8.4 inches, but it can fly like a dragon. About 40 species of Draco lizards exist, and they come in blue, red, brown, and orange hues.

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