Scale tales: a guide to Aussie skinks

By David Hayes 17 November 2017
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From leafy gardens to harsh desert, no bushwalk is complete without a skink scurrying by.

YEAR-ROUND, the frantic scamper of skinks is an everyday scene in most Australian suburban gardens. This mainly sun-loving group — the largest family of Aussie lizards — is found in every part of the country. 

Lined fire-tailed skink

Morethia rucauda

Lined fire-tailed skink

This little lizard is thought to wave its fiery tail to communicate.

Size: Up to 9 cm

Food: Spiders, ants, moths and beetles

Three-toed skink

Saiphos equalis

Three-toed skink

Sometimes mistaken for a snake, as it has very small legs, the three-toed skink may be found munching on crawling insects and worms in garden compost heaps.

Size: Up to 20 cm

Food: Crawling insects, centipedes, larvae and worms

Broad-banded sand swimmer

Eremiascincus richardsonii

Broad-banded sand swimmer

An aggressive, nocturnal desert hunter. Can escape predators in an instant by burrowing into sand with a wriggling, snake-like motion.

Size: Up to 30 cm

Food: Moths, termites, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders and occasionally small lizards

Blotched bluetongue lizard

Tiliqua nigrolutea

Blotched bluetongue lizard

Australia is host to six species of bluetongue. The blotched bluetongue can often be seen basking on rocks and roads in south-eastern Australia.

Size: Up to 40 cm

Food: Insects, snails, slugs, worms, spiders, mice, fungi, flowers and fruit

Garden skink

Lampropholis guichenoti

Garden skink

The coppery garden skink can be found basking and foraging among the leaf litter of suburban gardens. Large groups of more than 18 lizards may latch onto each other during spring mating season in flamboyant territorial displays.

Size: Up to 10 cm

Food: Flies, ants, moths and worms 

Lancelin Island skink

Ctenotus lancelini

Lancelin Island skink

Known only to inhabit Lancelin Island, a 7.6 ha nature reserve 115 km north of Perth. Populations of this rare skink are threatened due to the invasion of its habitat by exotic weeds and disturbance by humans.

Size: Up to 8 cm

Food: Insects and larvae

Pygmy spiny-tailed skink

Egernia depressa

Pygmy spiny-tailed skink

A prickly, desert-dwelling lizard that lives in small family groups in tree hollows, rock crevices and termite mounds. Evades predators by inflating its body with air to jam itself in wood or rock cracks.

Size: Up to 16 cm

Food: Primarily insects and some flowers, fruit, soft leaves and shoots 

Land mullet

Egernia major


Powerfully built with a fish-like head and body, the land mullet is Australia’s largest skink. Foraging for plant material such as fungi and fruit on the rainfor-est floor, this giant can live up to 23 years.

Size: Up to 70 cm

Food: Fungi, fallen fruit, snails, slugs and insects