Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Mountain Skink (Plestiodon callicephalus) Arizona

Santa Cruz County, AZ

 MOUNTAIN SKINK  Plestiodon callicephalus  

DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 76 mm or 3″ from snout to vent), shiny lizard with a thick neck, a small head, and small limbs. Coloration is copper, olive, or golden brown and the tail is bright blue. A wide, dark brown stripe runs along each side of the body extending from the eye to the hind limbs. This stripe is often bordered on its upper edge by a thin pale stripe. Many specimens, particularly juveniles and young adults, have pale lines that form a Y shape on top of the head. Adult males occasionally develop a reddish tint on the lips. The scales are large, rounded, smooth, and very shiny. This is the only skink in Arizona that retains its blue tail coloration into adulthood.

DISTRIBUTION: This lizard is found in a few of the sky island mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona including the Baboquivaris, Pajaritos, Atascosas, Santa Ritas, Huachucas, and Peloncillos. In Arizona it occurs at elevations ranging from about 3,500′ to 6,500′.

HABITAT: In Arizona the Mountain Skink inhabits Madrean Evergreen Woodland and the upper reaches of adjoining Semidesert Grassland communities. It is most often found under rocks, logs, and other surface cover in moist areas such as riparian corridors, rocky canyon bottoms, and grassy hillsides.

BEHAVIOR: Active during the day but most activity occurs under surface cover. When spotted it can be quite difficult to capture as it quickly slides and zigzags through the grass, rocks, and surface cover. It is capable of casting off (and regenerating) the tail. Pursuers and predators often end up with nothing but a wiggling tail.

DIET: The Mountain Skink feeds on beetles, flies, and a variety of other insects. It also eats a variety of spiders.  

REPRODUCTION: This skink lays a clutch of up to 6 eggs in spring or early summer. The female remains in the nest with the eggs to guard them. Live birth has also been documented in this species in Arizona.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Stebbins, R.C. 2003. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Mountain Skink (Plestiodon callicephalus) Arizona Range Map


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