Do you know how many species of lizard there are living wild in the UK? Two? One? None even? The answer is three. There’s the slow worm (which many people mistakenly believe to be a snake – see this article for more), the sand lizard and the common lizard.
Now, you may think that lizards only live in warm habitats, and that would usually be true. However, the common lizard can tolerate colder weather and lives further north than any other reptile species. They are in fact the only reptile which can endure the cold and wet conditions in Ireland.
Despite their name, you’ve probably never come across a common lizard. They are not really that common! But, if you keep your eyes peeled, you might see one in a variety of habitats. They live in many different places from woodland to meadows, and sand dunes to rubbish tips.
They are not very easy to spot however. That’s because they are pretty small, measuring no more than 16cm in length. Two-thirds of that length is made up of their tail which is quite thick. They are also well camouflaged, having grey, brown or green skins covered with dark spots and stripes. This, together with their small stature and their tendency to hide, makes them very hard to see!
Like all reptiles, common lizards are cold blooded. This means that they need an outside source of heat to keep warm. In the winter time they will hibernate, though they do occasionally venture forth on sunny days. With our warmer winters you are now more likely to see a common lizard at this time of year. In the past they were seldom encountered before the spring.
There is a lot more I could tell you about the common lizard – its diet, lifespan and courting habits, for example – but sadly I have run out of space. If you’d like to find out more, then a good place to start is the Wildlife Trusts website. They can also tell you about other reptiles to be found in the UK.