Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Desert Spiny Lizard"


Last updated 6/8/2023 at 12:20pm

For their size, lizards are speedy little creatures and often hard to identify as they dash across the desert landscape.

One of the resident species found here in the Anza-Borrego Desert is the desert spiny lizard and found throughout the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado deserts.

Like many lizards they can often be found sunning on rocks, especially on chilly mornings.

This 2.5- to 6-inch reptile enjoys a wide variety of habitats including palm groves, desert washes, rocky areas and cactus gardens.

As cold-blooded reptiles, this lizard becomes more active as temperatures warm up in the spring and will be more visible until the fall chill arrives in late October. During periods of peak summer heat, they will retreat to shaded areas during midday hours.

It's not uncommon now to be hiking or driving and spot the desert spiny lizard sunning on top of a boulder.

The primary food for this lizard is a variety of insects, including flies, ants, Beetles, small scorpions, ticks, mosquitoes and grasshoppers. They will also occasionally feed on some plants.

One of the unique qualities of this lizard is its ability to change colors with seasons. In winter months it will display darker colors so it can absorb more heat, and as warmer months arrive it will change to a lighter color to reflect sunlight and reduce body temperature.

While these are not venomous in any way, they do have powerful jaws and can bite, so handle them with care.

If you can get close enough, one of the identifying features of the spiny lizard are the pointed scales, giving it a spiny appearance.

Also, look for the dark color around the neck in front of the front legs as an identifying mark.

During late spring breeding season, the female desert spiny lizard will display a red head.

Contact Ernie @ or follow

You might be interested in:
Rendered 10/01/2023 15:48