Backyard Buddies

Photo: John Spencer/OEH


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Around November, you may see a Shingleback Lizard out and about with its mate.

For most of the year, a Shingleback leads a fairly solitary life. But from September to November they spend up to 75% of their time with their partners, which is unusual lizard behaviour. Year after year, many Shinglebacks find the same mate by scent trails and remain as mostly monogamous pairs for many years.

The Shingleback can be spotted in most of southern mainland Australia, up to southern Queensland. Their tough skin helps them retain water, so they are well adapted to the dry climates they live in.

Shingleback males often pursue partners quite aggressively. Fights sometimes break out between males as they work out amongst themselves who is the most dominant, and thereby earn the right to mate.

From December to April, you may start seeing Shingleback youngsters. Shinglebacks don't lay eggs like other reptiles; they give birth to live young. The babies are independent within days of birth.

As the name Shingleback suggests, its skin is very bumpy and rough-looking. In fact, they are also called a Pinecone Lizard because of their scales.

The colour and pattern of their scales varies with the region, but they are commonly brown to red-brown, with white, yellow or cream markings. Their tongue is dark blue, broad and fleshy. When threatened they open their mouth wide and flash their unusual coloured tongues to scare off potential predators.

The tail, like the head, is short, stumpy and wide, which confuses predators. The tail also stores fat which fuels the Shingleback during periods of low activity and over the cold winter. If it's been a good season, they can survive for months without food, just using up the resources in their tails.

Shinglebacks are not very fast on their short legs. Look out for them enjoying the sunshine on paved roads or warm rocks. Be careful to check the driveway for lizards before reversing out.

Shinglebacks love open country with ground cover, such as grass or leaf litter. Check any long grass for lizards before mowing the lawn. At night, they take cover under rocks or logs.

Shinglebacks are active in the early morning. They don't produce their own body heat, so they need to get out in the sun to heat up before they have the energy to forage for food.

Shinglebacks mostly eat plants, berries and flowers. Every once in a while, they will also feed on snails, insects or spiders, so they are great buddies for your garden.

Yellow blossoms and bright flowers are a Shingleback Lizard's favourite meals. To see more of this buddy in your backyard, check with your local nursery for the best kinds of yellow flowering locally native plants to plant.

Did you know?

Shingleback Lizards are also known as a Sleepy Lizard, Bobtail, Pinecone Lizard, Boggi, Double-headed Lizard and Stumpy Lizard.


Take special care when on the road. Shinglebacks may try to cross the road in pairs, with the male following the female.

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Photo: OEH