Tag Archives: Lizards in Spain

Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija Colilarga

  • English: Large Psammodromus
  • Scientific: Psammodromus algirus (Linnaeus 1758)
  • Castilian: Lagartija Colilarga
  • Catalan: Sargantaner gros
  • Portuguese: Lagartixa-do-mato
  • Family: Lacertidae
  • Distribution: Iberia (excluding the northern Atlantic coastal stretch.) Algeria, France, Gibraltar, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia

The Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija Colilarga can have a body length of up to 9cm with a slender tail that is two or three times longer. Its back is a soft brown with two pale yellow or off white stripes running down each flank. The back legs up to the beginning of the tail are a soft orange colour, all of this helps them to blend well with fallen leaves and soil shades under bushes which is where they are normally seen. This can be in forests, woods or more open scrubland but generally not far from shrubs that they can hunt through and use as shelter.

Continue reading Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija Colilarga

Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón comun

  • Scientific: Chamaelo chamaeleon
  • English: Mediterranean or Common Chameleon
  • Spanish: Camaleón comun
  • Portuguese: Camaleão

Above image is by Benny Trap who has a fantastic collection of reptile and amphibian images over at wikipedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Benny_Trapp


The southern coastal areas of Spain and Portugal. Elsewhere it is found on Malta, Sicily, Crete and the Greek islands of Chios and Samos as well as North Africa and south west Asia. some of these populations were possibly deliberate introductions or accidental transportation in the past. The same may have occured with this species on the Canary islands. (A similar species (Chameleo africanus) exists in the extreme south of Greece).

Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chameleon - Camaleón común
Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón común

Chameleons probably need little introduction and are instantly recognisable by both their appearance and their behaviour. All are members of the genus Chamaeleo and the only one which occurs in Europe they have laterally compressed bodies, a coiled, prehensile tail (like that of a monkey, allowing them to use it as a fifth limb to grasp branches) a very prominent head with usually some sort of adornment in the form of a casque or horns, fused eyelids that cover eyes which can move independently of each other, and feet with fused fingers and toes, essentially making the normally five digits of most lizards into two rather thick ones that form a pincer shape ideal for grasping and walking along branches.

The tongue is specially adapted for catching insect prey at long range, being coiled up inside the mouth like a huge spring with an enlarged sticky end. Chameleons invariably stalk very slowly through vegetation (usually in the trees, although they do descend to the ground), focus on the target prey and shoot the tongue out at it and equally quickly withdraw it back with the prey stuck on the end.

Although chameleons are renowned for changing colour, this is in fact more a reflection of their mood, communication to other chameleons or body temperature than any conscious attempt at camouflage.

As a rule these are not social animals even by the standards of reptiles, adults tending to avoid one another. Males have their own territories that often include females and defend these spaces fairly vigorously.

Thanks to John Cantelo for this video who also has a great website about birds and birding in the province of Cádiz, Spain: https://birdingcadizprovince.weebly.com/

Chamaelo chamaeleon is a medium-sized chameleon with a total length of about 30cm/12”, of which somewhat less than half of this is the tail. The head is distinguished by a crest or casque on the top that curves backwards and a flap-like lobe on either side of the head. The normal ground colour is a grass green, but this can change to blackish, brown, grey or white, sometimes with orange spots or a broken white line along the side. Individuals spotted at night are often very pale. They are daytime animals, being most active in the morning and afternoon.

Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chameleon - Camaleón común
Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón común

The species is found in the southern coastal areas of Spain and Portugal, including the Algarve, Málaga, Cadiz, Huelva and Almería. Oddly enough for a normally arboreal lizard it can be found on coastal dunes as well as bushes and in pine and eucalyptus woods. In Iberia it prefers low altitudes, up to 800m, but in North Africa can be found in the Atlas mountains almost twice as high.

Although there are no scientifically recognised variations in the Iberian populations at any rate, one authority noted that Iberian and North African populations tend to have a shorter tail and a lower casque on the head of the male.

The Mediterranean or “Common” Chameleon’s diet consists of various insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, flies, butterflies and moths, but they sometimes take small lizards or nestling birds.

The breeding season is later in the year than for most reptiles, during August and September males become notably aggressive towards one another, displaying their colours (often a deep green with black spots), puffing out their throats and gaping. Females are also displayed to. Mating lasts about 15 minutes and normally takes place twice daily over a two week period. After 50-60 days the female digs a hole 15-20cm deep and lays about 30 eggs. Incubation lasts no less than 8-9 months, so that eggs laid in one year do not hatch until July or August of the next. Reproduction is a strain on the female, nearly half dying after their first clutch, but chameleons in general are considered short-lived creatures with lives of just a few years.

While some lizard species are active all year round in the chameleon’s range, the chameleon itself has a period of winter inactivity from December to March, during which it normally buries itself or hides beneath rocks.

Threats to the survival of Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón comun

The Chameleon in Iberia has, unfortunately, many factors conspiring against its future survival. Partly, the very slow gait of this lizard makes it easy prey for domestic cats, road traffic and bush fires.

Habitat loss due to housing projects, golf courses and road building has fragmented populations especially along the coastal areas of the south. There are also natural predators such as the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and the Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygarus)

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus (Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado

  • English: Ocellated Lizard
  • Spanish: Lagarto ocelado or Lagarto
  • Portuguese: Sardão
  • Family: Lacerta
  • Distribution: Iberia, southern and western France, noth west Italy
  • Classification: Formerly classified as Lacerta lepida and now a species of Timon, a genus of lizard sometimes regarded as a subgenus of Lacerta, both of which belong to the family of Lacertidae (the wall lizards). They are commonly referred to as “ocellated” due to the eyelike spots of colour on the body. There are now two (formerly three) recognised subspecies as the subspecies T. nevadensis has been elevated to species level.
  • Timon lepidus ibericus – North-western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) Their teeth are not arranged the same as the other sub-species, being more aligned and becoming larger and irregular towards the back of the mouth.
  • Timon lepidus oteroi is endemic to the island of Sálvora, in Galicia.
  • Timon nevadensis – Declared a species recently and present in South-Eastern Spain (Sierra Nevada area). They are duller in colour; their head also seems more pointed.
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado

The ocellated lizard is the largest lizard resident in Europe growing to an adult size between 40 to 60 centimetres and sometimes reaching 90 centimetres. Generally, two thirds of the length is taken up by the thick tail. The legs, especially the hind legs, are muscular and strong, with long curved and sharp claws. The sides of the body are decorated with blue spots (especially during breeding season) and the back is a mixture of greens, browns, yellows and reds. The throat and belly, particularly of the males, are yellow. Adult males generally have more blue spots and always a larger, wider head.

Often though, you need to see both sexes at the same time to tell the difference between male and female. Females are generally smaller and sometimes have no blue spots at all. A long lived reptile they can live for as much as 25 years given a lot of luck and agility.

The species is found throughout almost all of Iberia, (plus Mediterranean France and southern Italy) and prefers habitats that are open to the sun, rocky scrub, olive plantations and grasslands. Juveniles seem especially at home close to dry river beds, lakes and water courses but adults seem to thrive in the driest of terrains. Territorial area is usually quite small and localised colonies can be made up of breeding adults, juveniles and young. When disturbed they will quickly run to the nearest cover or return to their burrow amongst tree roots or under a large rock.

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado A female (I think!) emerging from her burrow.

Telling the difference between the sub species is very difficult but the geographical position will help. (See classification list at top). In reality only a capture and close inspection will reveal the true identification. Beware though as an adult can inflict a very painful bite which almost always festers and takes an age to heal!

Diet is very varied and made up of large insects, beetles and spiders, on occasion bird’s eggs, baby birds, small mammals, other lizards and small snakes. Fruits and berries will be eaten when available as well. Rabbit burrows are often occupied which of course means that a constant supply of young rabbit is available.

Breeding occurs in late spring and early summer, often accompanied by violent fights between males over territory and the right to mate with a female. Generally 5 to 12 eggs are laid between June and July in the ground and the incubation period is about 3 months. The young start to emerge during the month of September giving them only a few short weeks to find a food supply and a suitable safe place to hibernate through the winter.

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado Juvenile with the unmistakeable spotty body.

Hibernation takes place from October until March or April depending on seasonal temperatures

The Ocellated lizard is preyed upon by Eagles such as Short toed (aguila culebrera) Circaetus gallicus. Large snakes will take young and juveniles but a fully grown adult only has one real enemy, man, and although reasonable populations are present in Spain and Portugal there has been a substantial decline in many areas due to habitat loss and persecution by hunters that fear the lizard eats all of the partridge eggs and young rabbits.

Lacerta (Timon) lepida – Lagarto ocelado - Large male
Lacerta (Timon) lepida – Lagarto ocelado – Large male

In the past larger lizards were hunted and eaten as well. A lizard stew in garlic and tomato sauce may sound tasty but beware as the main ingredient is now a protected species!

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.


The Turkish Gecko

  • Spanish: Salamanquesa Rosada
  • Scientific: Hemidactylus turcicus
  • English: Turkish Gecko
  • French: Gecko nocturne
  • German: Europäische Halbfinger
  • Italian: Geco verrucoso
  • Portugese: Osga-turca


A delicate-looking gecko which normally measures about 8-9.5 cm (3 -3¾ inches) including an intact tail, which is half the overall length. They are mainly pink in colour with black spots and paler areas, somewhat translucent, especially on the belly. The head is narrow and short, triangular in shape, their eyes are placed closer together than in the common gecko, with a vertical pupil.

The tail has alternating light and dark stripes providing it is the original, a regenerated tail will be smooth. Another characteristic of this species is that each digit has a curved claw. The toes are equipped with adhesive pads that allow them to adhere to vertical surfaces.

Nocturnal, spending the day hidden in the cracks of stone walls, in ruins, and rubble or under rocks and logs. This is reptile has adapted well to living with the man and is commonly seen hunting insects on summer nights near street lights and house walls etc.

The breeding season begins in March and lasts until July, consisting of 1 or 2 small eggs with the capability of laying up to 5 clutches per year. The eggs are are deposited under rocks, crevices in the ground etc and incubation lasts between 50 to 72 days.

Baby turkish gecko in Spain
Note the pinky translucent skin of the baby Turkish gecko.

IUCN Conservation Status: LC Least Concern

Distribution: Mediterranean Basin (Introduced elsewhere)

Similar species: Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!