Backyard Buddies
Gecko

Photo: Ken Stepnell

Gecko

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Geckos are nocturnal hunters with eyes that are up to 350 times more sensitive at night than human eyes.

Most geckos can't blink as they don't have any eyelids. So instead, they clean the dust and dirt away by licking their eyes with their long tongues.

Most geckos spend the day hiding under the bark of a nearby tree. Australian native geckos can be found everywhere except for Tasmania.

Geckos are the super communicators of the reptile world and apart from legless lizards are the only lizards able to make noises. Their chirruping calls attract mates or let other geckos know that they are trespassing in their territory.

Geckos can also use body language to communicate with one another. Sometimes geckos gape at a threat, opening their mouth wide to seem larger and more dangerous. Geckos wave their tails to signal to other geckos and can also be used to distract a predator.

If it is grabbed, a gecko will drop its tail, breaking it deliberately at a special point called a fracture point. Muscles around the tail will then squeeze the blood vessels stopping the gecko from bleeding to death. When the tail grows back it won't have any bones and it will probably be a different colour to the rest of the gecko.

Most gecko species have special pads on their toes that allow them to cling to smooth vertical surfaces, even glass. This lets them escape from predators and hunt for prey that other lizards cannot catch.

At night you may hear little yelps or mysterious metallic scrapes coming from the walls or roof. You may have a resident gecko or two: geckos and legless lizards are the only lizards that can vocalize.

Geckos live in many different habitats from rainforest to desert, tree-top to termite mound. A handful of species are bold enough to become your buddy and move into the garden or house. If they do, you're in luck, because geckos eat cockroaches, spiders and mosquitoes. You'll never need pest control again.

In Queensland, the Native House Gecko Gehyra dubia (also known as the Dubious dtella) is a regular home visitor, while around the Sydney Basin area, the Southern Leaf-tailed Gecko Phyllurus platurus is often spotted in backyards. They can cling to glass windows and even ceilings, thanks to their sticky velcro-like feet covered by thousands of minute bristles.

You can tell geckos are about by the cries they make at night and also by their distinctive poo which they often attach to your walls - it's small with a white tip. The native house gecko has a soft chattering call, while the leaf-tail has a loud hissing screech. The introduced Asian House Gecko (which looks very similar to our native house gecko) makes a much louder 'chuck, chuck, chuck' sound.

Some geckos creak like a cork being screwed out of a bottle. Others make a sharp 'chirp!' or soft 'pip, pip, pip' like a small bird. Geckos get their name from the loud 'GECK-O!' call of the Asian Tokey Gecko Gecko gecko, while baby geckos make a soft screaming noise like an old fashioned kettle coming to the boil.

Did you know?

Biologists are worried about the spread of the Asian house gecko, first introduced accidentally into Darwin in the 1960s via container ships. This gecko has since spread north as far as the Torres Strait and right down to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. While it has a similar pale pinkish appearance to the native house gecko, it also has small spines along the body. They are displacing native local geckos from houses in Darwin and Townsville. They have been observed fighting with local geckos and eating native skinks and have even tackled the nests of stinging paper wasps. Of greatest concern are the exotic parasites that Asian house geckos may spread to native geckos.

Tip

If you leave an outside light on, geckos will be attracted by the gathering moths and other insects. Look closely and you'll see your house gecko has soft, translucent skin and large eyes to help it hunt under cover of darkness. Some geckos have such thin skin their eggs can be seen inside the body, especially if they are clinging to a window with the light behind them.

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Quote

”BYB shows that people can make a positive difference to conservation efforts in Australia. Learn, explore and love your bit of wilderness.“

Michele – National Parks Ranger, NSW

Photo: OEH