Unlike other states which have existing populations of native lizards, all of lizards in Hawaii species are introduced. This means that human action brought lizards to the islands from an external location like the mainland US, South America, Asia, or somewhere else. These actions occurred in a timeline over thousands of years from the original Polynesian settlers to later colonization by Europeans.
This article discusses the main species of lizards present on the Hawaiian Islands. They may be present on one island or many, and we’ll make sure to let you know where you can find each lizard. Continue reading to learn about 13 lizards’ habitat, behavior, appearance, and size.
13 Lizards in Hawaii
1. Common House Gecko
Scientific name: Hemidactylus frenatus
Common House Geckos are native to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. They inhabit Bali, Indonesia, Australia, and even Madagascar. Other populations live as far away as Costa Rica.
In Hawaii, they can be hard to spot because they are effectively transparent and nocturnal. When they are opaque, they are tan and brown.
Most of their diet consists of insects like fruit flies. They are common in all kinds of environments around Kaua’i – suburban, urban, and rural.
Artificial light can help attract flies which they eat. They have sticky toe pads and can climb smooth vertical surfaces with ease.
2. Green Anole
Scientific name: Anolis carolinensis
Green Anoles aren’t native to Hawaii and they didn’t come to the island unnoticed. They were actually introduced by accident when lizards escaped or were released from captive populations kept as pets.
Both sexes are bright green. Males also have a red throat flap, which they inflate while perched on rocks and defending their territory.
The Green Anole’s diet consists of insects, but they also eat spiders. Whatever kinds of insects they can hunt and catch are game for dinner.
Adults grow up to 8 inches long, but they average around 6.5 inches. They’re territorial and will posture when basking during the daytime.
3. Jackson’s Chameleon
Scientific name: Chamaeloeo jacksonii
Chameleons are some of the most unique lizards, and the Jackson’s Chameleon is no different. It has a 360-degree field of vision, can change the color of its skin at will, and have a tongue one and a half times the length of its body.
Their toes are especially adapted into a pincer-like shape to grab tree branches. They’re also known as Three-horned Chameleons since males have three rhino-like horns on their nose and forehead.
They are very territorial despite their slow-moving reputation. Males and females meet only to mate and then go their separate ways.
Jackson’s chameleon was introduced to Hawaii from Kenya in 1972. It has since spread to the four main islands: Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu, and Maui.
4. Brown Anole
Scientific name: Anolis sagrei
The Brown Anoles are not native to Hawaii, but they have inhabited the island for decades. They first inhabited Cuba but accidentally came to Hawaii thanks to imports of plants with soil containing Brown Anole eggs. They thrive in the tropical environments and occasionally pose risks to native wildlife.
This lizard grows to a maximum of 8.5 inches long. Male are smaller than females, but they have a red-orange throat patch they use to assert their dominance over territory and females.
Unlike Green Anoles, Brown Anoles prefer to live on the ground and bask on sunny days. They eat insects and spiders.
5. Gold-dust Day Gecko
Scientific name: Phelsuma laticauda
The Gold-dust Day Geckos are a treat to spot on a walk through the Hawaiian Islands’ jungles and beaches. They rely on fruit plants and flowers to supply them with nectar and sweet fruits.
Insects, pollen, and smaller lizards are also on the menu. They originate from Tanzania and Madagascar.
They are primarily green with gold and aqua markings on the forehead and snout. The eyes are large and rimmed with aqua.
They have no teeth but are remarkably aggressive despite being a maximum of 5 inches long. Males will fight and maim each other in efforts to defend their territory.
6. Stump-toed Gecko
Scientific name: Gehyra mutilata
There are plenty of names for the Stump-toed Gecko, including sugar gecko and common four-clawed gecko, and plenty of environments in which it lives. This gecko is native to the Pacific Islands and Sri Lanka, but many populations live on the beaches of Hawaii.
They’re not as slender as some geckos. They have a chunky tail and a long head. The scale color of this lizard is reddish-brown.
In Hawaii, Stump-toed Geckos live in harmony with urban and suburban development. Like most geckos, they gather at night around porch lights to snack on moths and flies drawn to the artificial light sources.
7. Small Tree Gecko
Scientific name: Hemiphyllodactylus typus
The Small Tree Gecko is native to the South Pacific, but it also lives in the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a small gecko a few inches long that is gray with light yellow dorsal spots along the left and right sides.
Not much is known about the Small Tree Gecko’s behavior in Hawaii. It is generally insectivorous and nocturnal. They are rarely seen because of their dark color, ability to hide in the shadows, and small size. In nature, they lay flat along tree branches and wait for insects to pass by.
8. Northern Blue-tongued Skink
Scientific name: Tiliqua scincoides intermedia
The Northern Blue-tongued Skinks are native to Australia, but they’re prevalent in Hawaii thanks to the exotic pet trade. These are large lizards with a hefty bite and weak legs.
They can grow up to 2 feet long! They have flattened bodies that blend well into the forest floor and a thick blue tongue.
Normally this skink species is most active during the day. It takes advantage of the sun’s warmth by basking during this time as well as hunting for food.
It’s an omnivore, so it eats everything from insects to fruits and flowers. Males are very aggressive during the breeding season.
9. Azure-tailed Skink
Scientific name: Emoia impar
The Azure-tailed Skinks have a history of disappearing and reappearing in the Hawaiian Islands. How? They were considered extinct for 50 years, but populations were found again on an islet off of Moloka’I.
Its scales are dark slate blue and it has a series of multiple orange or red stripes from its head to its back legs. The tail is brighter blue, and in some cases, azure.
Little is known about the behavior of the Azure-tailed Skink in Hawaii. There is more research about it in its native habitat, Polynesia. They eat insects and are most active during the daytime.
10. Fox Gecko
Scientific name: Hemidactylus garnotii
The Northern Pacific Gecko is present on all of the major Hawaiian Islands. Like most geckos, it has vertical pupils, clingy finger pads, and functional eyelids.
It’s insectivorous and has adapted well to human buildings like barns, houses, and parking decks. They are comfortable in the margins of human infrastructure and actually take advantage of opportunities to hunt prey. They gather around porch lights at night and hunt flying insects.
11. Oahu Skink
Scientific name: Emoia atrocostata
The Oahu Skink is originally native to southeast Asia, including Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, and even Australia and Japan. Populations are at risk in Asia but are stable in Hawaii. They eat insects and are active during the daytime.
Recognize an Oahu Skink based on its flat back and small front limbs. They are light brown or gray on most of the body, but a lateral stripe runs from each side. It starts at the eye and proceeds down the body to just after the back leg.
12. Mourning Gecko
Scientific name: Lepidodactylus lugubris
The Mourning Gecko is a small tropical gecko species that grows to a maximum of 4 inches long. It is made to blend into the background. The colors of its scales include brown, olive green, black, and tan.
These colors combine in a camo-style pattern along the back and tail of the gecko. Depending on the environment, the gecko can change its color like a chameleon does.
Mourning Geckos prefer natural and rural places in Hawaii. They like mangrove thickets and open rocks with regular sunlight. Mourning Geckos hide in plain sight by clinging to tree branches and tree trunks. They hunt insects at night.
13. Orange-spotted Day Gecko
Scientific name: Phelsuma guimbeaui
The Orange-spotted Day Gecko is a brilliant example of the bright colors common in tropical lizard species. It’s a green and orange gecko with large toe pads, a blunt, square-shaped nose, and round, docile eyes. They have a light blue cape-like wash around the shoulders.
Adults reach a maximum length of 7 inches long. They live on Oahu where they sip nectar from flowers and eat fruit.
Suburban neighborhoods are no problem for them since they benefit from higher insect pest populations. Tall palm trees are some of their favorite hangout spots.