Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) Arizona

 PAINTED TURTLE  Chrysemys picta
DESCRIPTION: A medium-sized (shell up to 250 mm or 10″ in length) aquatic turtle with a low, smooth, dark olive, gray-brown, or black shell marked with yellow and red lines around the edges. The head and limbs are dark olive-gray with numerous cream and yellow stripes. A dark horizontal bar runs through the middle of each eye. The bottom part of the shell (plastron) is marked with a single large, dark, central blotch on a red or yellow background. The rear edge of the carapace is smooth. Females grow to a much larger size than males. The similar looking Pond Slider has a large red patch on each side of the head.

DISTRIBUTION: This turtle’s natural range extends across southern Canada and the northern and eastern United States. There are several populations scattered across the southwestern United States including the St. Johns and Lyman Lake areas in Apache County, Arizona. It has also been introduced to rivers, canals, urban lakes, and reservoirs around Phoenix, Tucson, and Cottonwood.

Generally an inhabitant of shallow, permanent, slow moving waters such as ponds, shallow coves within reservoirs, backwaters, and slow moving portions of rivers.

Often seen basking in the sun on floating logs, on banks, or by floating in sun-warmed surface water. Often basks in large groups. Forages during the day and spends the night on the bottom of the pond or river. When it senses danger this wary turtle is quick to dive into the water and swim some distance away before resurfacing.

This turtle is an omnivore that feeds on a variety of aquatic plants, crayfish, snails, insects, tadpoles, frogs, fish, spiders, insects, and carrion. Young tend to be more carnivorous than adults.

Mating takes place in spring and fall. Clutches of up to 25 eggs each are buried in moist, shallow nests on the bank in spring and summer. Can lay up to 4 clutches of eggs per season.

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

Brennan, T. C., & A. T. Holycross. 2005. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Maricopa County. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Stebbins, R.C. 1951. Amphibians of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Stebbins. 1985. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin. New York, NY

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


Visit Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation:


Copyright © 2023, Arizona Game and Fish Department. All rights reserved.

If you make use of the textual contents of this site in reports, publications, etc. please cite and credit the author(s) and photographer(s). All photos on this website are copyrighted. However, those found in the species account section may be used for any noncommercial scientific, educational, or conservation purposes provided that photographs are not altered and continue to bear the copyright symbol and name of the photographer. Please contact the photographer regarding commercial use of copyrighted photographs.