True Blue Aussie
Did that lizard just stick his tongue out at you? If the tongue was bright blue then it must be the funny looking blue-tongued lizard. The blue-tongue is a very slow-moving buddy who will often make you laugh as he waddles through your garden, sticking out his tongue.
You will start to see blue-tongues (or blueys) more often now as they begin emerging from their winter homes to look for mates. They are only active during the day which makes them easy to spot.
The reason for their blue tongues is so they can flick them out when annoyed and scare off predators. Bright colours in nature can often mean danger or poison, which is what bluey is hoping its tongue will tell other animals. Click here to see this in action.
Blue-tongues will also make loud hissing sounds and can rear up in anger to chase off threats. As bluey only has little stumpy legs (which are very comical next to their large, wide body) they are no good at running away from predators. Click here to see why. That’s why bluey has to rely on scare tactics such as its tongue to scare predators away. Another tactic it uses is its very powerful bite and habit of not letting go.
While not poisonous, bluey can sure hurt with the impressive jaw strength in his bite so if you see one in your garden, make sure you just watch and don’t touch. Picking them up incorrectly can also pull off their tails. Although technically a defence mechanism to help them escape predators, this process isn’t very good for them, especially in winter, as their tail is where they store their water and nutrients and it requires a lot of energy to regrow them.
Mating for most blue-tongues begins in late winter through to December. If you see two blue-tongues looking like they’re having a vicious fight, it’s most likely just mum and dad blue-tongue mating. They can be quite aggressive towards each other and can end up with cuts and scratches but this is definitely normal so don’t worry or try to interfere.
Mummy blue-tongue gives birth to live young three to four months after mating, which is very unusual in lizards as they normally lay eggs. Blue-tongues
have between one and fifteen babies who are able to look after themselves just four days after birth. But it will take three to
four years before they are completely grown up.
The blue-tongue lizard could also go by the name Snail Snatcher as it eats so many snails, that their bellies can get quite enormous. They also really love to eat strawberries. So why not plant some strawberry plants to share with your little garden helper? If you see bluey in your garden, try digging up some worms or curl grubs and toss them his way. And of course if you find any snails, put them near bluey and they won’t last long.
Like snakes, blue-tongue lizards also shed their skin. During moulting season you might see them scratching themselves like a dog. It can be an uncomfortable time for them, especially the youngsters who shed their skin more often as they are constantly growing. A nice way to help them out is to put a few logs and rocks around your garden that will give them a good scratching post.
As well as leaving rocks and logs in your garden, there are plenty of other tips for making your garden blue-tongue friendly. They love to forage in leaf-litter so keep a nice layer of mulch on your garden beds and plant some ground covers to offer them protection. They also like being near a water source so leaving out a shallow dish of water will keep them happy. Check out this video of a thirsty blue-tongue.
Blue-tongues can live as long as 30 years, so that’s 30 years of free snail and bug removal in your garden — well-worth making your garden more comfortable for them. Here are some other tips and information for you.
The same bait used to kill slugs and snails can also kill your friendly blue-tongue. So instead of using bait, why not let the bluey do his thing and encourage them into your garden? You can also deter the crawlies by sprinkling crushed egg shells, ground coffee and sawdust around your plants as slugs and snails hate crawling on them.
DID YOU KNOW?
The blue-tongue lizard has a ‘third eye’ on top of its head. It is a small hole leading down to its brain that it uses to work out when it’s night or day, and it helps regulate their body temperature.
Funny coloured tongue from too many iceblocks?
Summer is the perfect time to spot one of the largest Australian lizards sunning itself in your garden. The Blue-tongued lizard, sometimes called a Blue-tongued skink, loves the warm weather.
Most suburban Blue-tongues are used to living near people, so they won’t scurry away as soon as you come outdoors like smaller skinks. Watch a video of a Blue-tongue in the garden here.
During mating season, from May to November, watch out on the roads as Blue-tongues can be found crossing over in pairs. Sometimes the male follows the female (he has an out of proportion head, and she is the bigger one), or sometimes the male carries the female across the road. What a gentleman!
Mother Blue-tongues give birth to live young about three to five months after mating. If you’re lucky, you might spot a baby Blue-tongue around your place now or in the coming months. The resilient babies strike out on their own and fend for themselves only a few days after birth.
Rejoice if you spot a Blue-tongue in your backyard because you won’t have to worry about slugs or snails anymore. The Blue-tongues snap them up. Don’t put any snail bait out or you could also be discouraging your number one snail removalist.
There are six species of blue-tongues in Australia, and most grow up to 60 cm long. The most common types are:
- The Eastern Blue-tongue. Widespread in south-eastern Australia. It’s grey with dark brown stripes across its back and tail.
- The Northern Blue-tongue. At home in the savannahs of Australia’s tropical regions. They’re orangey-yellow with darker stripes along their backs.
- Blotched Blue-tongue, found in the highlands of south-west Australia. It’s dark brown with light coloured blotches on its back.
- The Shingleback, otherwise known as the Bob-tailed Lizard or Stumpy-tailed Lizard. Lives west of the Great Dividing Range. It’s dark brown with large, rough scales. Most Shinglebacks have the same mate for their entire lives.
Blue-tongues are cold blooded. They need to sunbake to get their body temperatures up. If they’ve been in the shade for a while they can’t run away quickly if a threat appears.
When threatened, the Blue-tongue opens its mouth wide and hisses! The unexpected sight of their blue tongue and bright pink mouth will frighten off most dogs, but cats often pounce on a lizard before it gets a chance to look scary. Blue-tongues are all bluff when it comes to defending themselves. They have no sharp teeth or venom.
DID YOU KNOW?
Blue-tongues store water and nutrients in their tails. A Blue-tongue can drop its tail to distract a predator just like the little lizards or skinks we commonly see in the garden. Once the Blue-tongue loses its tail, it needs about a year of good food supply to completely regrow it.
If you need to move a Blue-tongue out of the way, gently wrap a towel around it or sweep it into a box and move it to a safer space. Blue-tongues aren’t dangerous, but they can latch onto your finger and refuse to let go if they aren’t happy.