Arizona is a state of canyons, deserts, and scrubland. The hot and arid conditions here make it perfect for cold-blooded reptiles. They take advantage of exposed rock formations and use the desert sand to use the energy from the sun to keep their metabolisms active. There are 107 native reptile species in Arizona, but today, we’ll concentrate on lizards.
Here are 19 species of lizards in Arizona. Keep reading to learn about their habitat, diet, and appearance.
19 Species of Lizards in Arizona
1. Pai Striped Whiptail
Scientific name: Aspidoscelis pai
Look for the Pai Striped Whiptail in the north central regions of Arizona. They live mostly in the Colorado Plateau, but some live in the Mazatzal Mountains. It is a high elevation lizard that prefers elevations between 4,500 and 7,600 feet.
It hunts for insects and small lizards during the day by rooting around logs and dirt. Pai Striped Whiptails have blue tails, feet, and throats.
Distinguish them from other Whiptails by counting the stripes: Pai whiptails have six, while Arizona whiptails have seven.
2. Giant Spotted Whiptail
Scientific name: Aspidoscelis stictogramma
The Giant Spotted Whiptail is the largest whiptail native to Arizona, measuring in at up to 20 inches from snout to tail. It changes in color as it grows to adulthood. Adults are green-gray on most of the body, but the back features a black background with six yellow stripes from the head to before the hind legs.
This lizard is active only during the day. It intentionally hunts by rooting and digging under rocks and leaf litter for insects and smaller lizards.
Their habitat range is around Arizona in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert scrub. They are skillful at evading people.
3. New Mexico Whiptail
Scientific name: Aspidoscelis neomexicana
The New Mexico Whiptails’ blue tails and limbs are dull in color compared to other whiptails that live in Arizona. They live in in just one part of the state; the only population is based in the Petrified Forest National Park.
It is active during the day when temperatures are mild but there is still enough sunlight to provide energy. These lizards regularly consume termites, insect larvae, and small insects. They average a little over 3 inches long, so they are usually alert because of the risk of being eaten by predators.
4. Common Chuckwalla
Scientific name: Sauromalus ater
The Common Chuckwalla is the only species of chuckwalla to live in the United States. Other species live south of the American border in Mexico, Baja California, and islands in the Sea of Cortes.
It is a powerful lizard measuring about 20 inches long and weighing up to 2 pounds. Colors change according to the region the chuckwalla is from. They live in western Arizona within the scrubby desert landscapes of the Mohave and Sonoran deserts.
It’s most active during the day. After foraging on plants, it spends the night wedged into a rock crevice.
5. Western Zebra-tailed Lizard
Scientific name: Callisaurus draconoides rhodostictus
The Western Zebra-tailed Lizards are built to run. Their lithe frames support strong arms and legs which propel them across scrubby, dry landscapes.
Its tail is flat and decorated with black and white rings. It used to stabilize the lizard’s balance when it runs.
Instead of hiding in rock formations, this lizard buries itself shallowly in the sand and waits for small insects and lizards to walk by. They wave their tails at predators as a warning.
Males have bright blue patches on the obliques of their bellies. These blue patches have two black stripes running from side to side.
Find them throughout all of southwestern Arizona and the western border. They prefer scrubby desert environments.
6. Tucson Banded Gecko
Scientific name: Coleonyx variegatus bogerti
The Tucson Banded Gecko is delicate compared to other lizards native to Arizona. It lives mostly on the ground and rarely uses its clinging footpads to hold onto vertical surfaces. This lizard’s prey includes spiders and beetles.
As a subspecies of the Western Banded Gecko, it shares most of its characteristics with the other four subspecies. In fact, it even shares much of its habitat in Arizona’s southeastern corner with its close relative, the Desert Banded Gecko.
The best way to tell a Tucson Banded Gecko apart from a Desert Banded Gecko is to assess the number of pre-anal pores. The former has 8+ but the latter has less than 7.
7. Desert Banded Gecko
Scientific name: Coleonyx variegatus variegatus
Desert Banded Geckos look much the same as their related cousin – the Tucson Banded Gecko. They It has a tan base color with dark brown leopard-striping across the body. They have functional eyelids and no toepads.
Desert banded gecko are much more common than other banded geckos, so you’re more likely to see this subspecies. They wave their tails in the air when hunting for prey. Look for them in Arizona west of Flagstaff south to the border.
8. Great Basin Collared Lizard
Scientific name: Crotaphytus bicinctores
The Great Basin Collared Lizard’s range in Arizona is in the northwest and western parts of the state. It likes the northern deserts west of the Gila River. They rely on rocks to keep them hidden, provide basking platforms, and serve as hunting platforms.
Recognize a Great Basin Collared Lizard by way of the black ‘collar’ around its neck. The rest of the body has a mix of black and white scales. The belly is yellow. When attacked, they either bite aggressively or run away on their hind legs.
9. Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard
Scientific name: Sceloporus slevini
The Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard is small yet robust tan and brown lizard measuring about 3 inches long. They have a variety of color forms ranging from clear pattern delineation to blotchy stripes of similar colors.
They’re most active during the day when they run between clumps of grass in open woodlands and evergreen forests. Insects make up most of this lizard’s diet.
In Arizona, it lives only in the extreme southeast in Sky Island mountain ranges. They are hardy enough to live as high as 9,000 feet!
10. Gilbert’s Skink
Scientific name: Plestiodon gilberti
While most populations of Gilbert’s Skink live in California, there is a substantial population residing in western Arizona. This skink has a cylindrical reddish-green body with small, stumpy legs, and a triangle-shaped head.
Their average size is about 4 inches long. This skink spends most of its time underneath leaves looking for insects.
11. Yuma Desert Fringe-toed Lizard
Scientific name: Uma rufopunctata
The Yuma Desert Fringe-toed Lizard (also known as just the Yuma Fringe-toed Lizard) is native to the southwest corner of Arizona. It lives only in the Yuma Desert, where it prefers to dwell in sandy environments like open dunes and dusty shrubland. Regardless of habitat type, it’s almost always found in sand.
Yuma Desert Fringe-toed Lizards are efficient runners that like to bask in the sun during the day. Not including its tail, the average lizard is about 4.75 inches long.
They are light tan on most of the body, but the back has orange spots with a black background. The underside of the tail is black and white striped.
Most of their diet consists of insects, but they will eat small lizards, flowers, and even their own shed skin.
12. Arizona Night Lizard
Scientific name: Xantusia arizonae
Arizona Night Lizards are shy and reclusive reptiles. They spend most of their lives within rock crevices.
To maintain their body temperature without sitting in the sun, they bask on rocks adjacent to sunny spots. They get the water they need from their diet so they are free to live on inhospitable rocky slopes.
An Arizona Night Lizard’s diet consists of small insects and spiders. This lizard rarely measures over 3 inches long.
Recognize it by way of its delicate toes, large eyes, and leopard-spotted body. The base is tan but the spots are dark. Their habitat is in a small portion west-central Arizona.
13. Gila Monster
Scientific name: Heloderma suspectum
The Gila Monster is one of the most recognizable lizards in the state of Arizona. It’s the only venomous lizard in the United States. They average about 20 inches long and weigh about 1.5 pounds.
Identify a Gila Monster based on its muscular body, dark and light scale pattern, and pearl-like scales. They are opportunistic omnivores that eat anything from other reptiles to small mammals and birds.
Gila Monsters are so named because populations used to thrive in the Gila River Basin. Due to human interaction and development, populations have declined. They are hard to spot because they spend most of their lives in rocky crevices or underground.
14. Arizona Striped Whiptail
Scientific name: Aspidoscelis arizonae
The Arizona Striped Whiptail is a species of lizard native to the state of Arizona. Most of its range is concentrated in the southeast part of the state. They average a little over 3 inches long.
Identify them by their blue-green tails, six light-colored stripes, and blue feet. Unlike other Arizonan whiptails, they don’t have spots. They find prey during the day by digging around rocks. Insects and other small lizards make up their diets.
15. Texas Horned Lizard
Scientific name: Phrynosoma cornutum
The Texas Horned Lizard is one of the easiest-to-recognize lizards in the American Southwest. It lives only in the extreme southeast of Arizona, where it sleeps at night and forages for insects during the day. They catch ants, their favorite prey, by lurking around anthills and following ant trails.
Texas Horned Lizards are flat-bodied with spikes along their sides and back. Their bellies are white. This lizard’s head is adorned with special horn-like spikes. To defend itself, the brown and orange lizard can squirt blood from its eyes.
16. Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
Scientific name: Phrynosoma mcallii
The Flat-tailed Horned Lizard dwells only in a small part of the southwestern part of Arizona. It’s barely over 4 inches long from head to tail, but it makes up for its small size by being extremely effective at camouflage. It lives only in Sonoran Desert scrub habitat.
Unlike other lizards that hide at night, the Flat-tailed Horned Lizard stays hidden in plain sight. It sleeps right on top of the sand but is practically invisible because the orange and brown pattern of scales and spots blend into the ground. Ants make up most of its diet, but it will eat beetles.
17. Sagebrush Lizard
Scientific name: Sceloporus graciosus
The Sagebrush Lizard is a small brown and tan lizard native to the western United States. There are three regional types – southern, western, and northern – but only the northern type lives in northern Arizona.
Sagebrush lizards prefer to live in places with abundant shrubbery, especially sagebrush. They hide in thickets and underneath logs and boulders.
You’re most likely to spot one during the daytime when it suns itself on rocks and logs. They eat insects and are preyed on by birds, mammals, and larger lizards.
18. Madrean Alligator Lizard
Scientific name: Elgaria kingii
The Madrean Alligator Lizard is a robust reptile averaging 5.5 inches from snout to vent. It has pronounced light and dark stripes along its back and sides.
These stripes range from red-brown to black to yellow-white. It hunts for insects at dusk and dawn. They use their powerful jaws to kill and eat scorpions too.
Its range in Arizona consists of the Mogollon Rim and southwards into the valleys and “sky island” land formations. They adapt to habitat with trees, grasslands, and canyons, but they do prefer locations with more abundant water.
19. Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Scientific name: Gambelia wislizenii
The Long-nosed Leopard Lizard is an adaptable lizard averaging about 5.8 inches from snout to vent. Females are an inch longer than males on average. Both males and females have the ability to change the pattern of their scales.
Usually they appear to have dark leopard-like spots on a taupe or tan background color. Another color morph this lizard is capable of is a dark morph where the lizard’s primary color darkens and colored bars become visible.
Females’ lateral bars are red during breeding season. It lives throughout the state and eats small lizards, insects, and even voles and mice.