In just about every backyard in Sydney, there lurks familiar and voracious insect hunters known as skinks. These small lizards always capture the attention of children and may have even been partially responsible for leading you into a life of being curious about nature! All you have to do to witness their playful antics, is sit in your garden on a sunny day in a sunny spot and you are sure to see one of the three more common species. You can often hear them rustle in the leaf litter as you walk past and block their sunlight. In this species of the week we will look at the three most common skink species in suburban gardens of Sydney, and how to tell each one a part from one another, as many people may have two or even all three occurring in their backyard.
The three species are:
- Common Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti)
- Delicate Skink (Lampropholis delicata)
- Fence Skink (Cryptoblepharus virgatus)
We will start off with the common garden skink and the delicate skink, as both are very similar. These skinks are small and sociable lizard which, like most skinks, hunts small invertebrates and only needs to eat every few days. Most Sydney gardens are likely to have these species living in them provided there is a little cover and vegetation to attract insects. Both these skinks lay communal nests between summer and autumn. You may see males trying to entice females into mating by performing a series of set movements you could almost describe as a dance. These species are very similar, and it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other. To identify them, check the back for a faint stripe down the middle (as demonstrated in the photo below) and also observed the colour. The common garden skink will always have a faint stripe down the middle of its back where the delicate skink lacks it. The common garden skink also has a copper coloured head with a grey coloured body, where the delicate skink has a uniform brown coloured body (as shown in the second photo below).
The other skink species that many gardens may have is a bit different to the first two. This skink won’t be found on the ground. Instead you will find this skink running along vertically on fences made from either wood or brick. In nature, these skinks are found on rock outcrops. They hunt small invertebrates that land on their vertical territory and are very active and very fast lizards. To encourage this species of skink in your garden, ensure you choose wooden or brick fencing opposed to galvanised steel, as the fence skink isn’t able to grip the galvanised steel and can’t utilise it as habitat. Half shade your brick/wood fence with thick vegetation and you will have made a fence skink haven. This species of skink is relatively easy to identify with its white stripes running the length of its distinctive flat streamline body.
Hopefully this will give the tools to ID which skinks you have in your garden. If you find one, try and ID it yourself and share what species you have in your garden. With the weather warming up you are sure to see more and more reptiles emerging!