A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Commonly Encountered California Lizards

Click on a picture for a larger view

observation link

Check the following pictures first if you are trying to identify a lizard you have found in California.

Because most of these lizards are often seen around houses and yards, I have received many emails asking me to identify them. For that reason I consider them to be the lizards most commonly encountered in California.

Always keep in mind that any kind of lizard can vary in appearance and can look much different in motion than it does in a still photo. Sunlight and shade can also change the apparent color of a lizard, and lizards will change in color depending on their temperature. If you do not find your lizard here, try going back to the Lizard Identification page.

Southern Alligator Lizard

This is the lizard I am most often asked to identify. Commonly seen
around houses in southern California or in rural areas in other parts of the state.

Most of the lizards shown here are slightly coiled, but they often look very long and thin, like a snake, when
stretched out and when moving. Often the tail is missing or just a stump, making the lizard look shorter and fatter.
The color can vary from brown to red to grayish. Juveniles do not look like adults - they are very tiny and shiny with a solid coppery color on the back. They are often mistaken for small ground skinks by people from the southern and eastern US.

lizard lizard lizard
lizard lizard lizard
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Juvenile Juvenile     © Paul Hanson Juvenile

Western Fence Lizard

Very common throughout the state. Likely to be found in the yard, especially in Southern California.

These lizards vary greatly in appearance. They can look spotted, striped, blotched or solid brown, and they often
look very dark before they have heated up. Chances are good if you see a small lizard sitting on a rock or fence
or other object and you are anywhere in CA except the mountains or deserts, this is the lizard you are looking at.
(Some exceptions are the Granite Spiny Lizard and the Side-blotched Lizard in coastal Southern California.)

lizard lizard
© Jason Rojas Adult, Alameda County
© David Rodriguez

Sometimes fence lizards are very dark before they have warmed up in the sun, like this one. They can look like they're completely black at a distance.

Common Side-blotched Lizard

Probably the most abundant and commonly-seen lizard in the deserts.

Also found in other dry areas and in coastal Southern California. Small lizards usually seen sitting
on a rock. Males have more fine spotting than females, which have larger markings.
Easily confused with Western Fence Lizards, but this lizard has much smaller scales.

lizard lizards
lizard lizard lizard

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