Western Skink

Western skink, Calif.

Western skink, Calif.

A lizard found on every continent except Antartica, there are more than 1,500 species of skinks.


Where I live in northern California, we have the western skink species, measuring 4-8 inches (10-12 cm) long, including the tail.


A common species, the western skink occurs in western U.S. and Canada, see map below.   More info here and here.


True to their lizard nature, they like to bask in the sun; and have an insectivorous diet including spiders, moths, beetles and other insects.


As experts at burrowing, they are not often seen.  With a long list of predators, Plestiodon skiltonianus are most safe underground, or under rocks and leaf litter.


When attacked, the skink can perform autotomy, i.e., self amputation, of the tail appendage.  This mechanism distracts the predator long enough for the skink to escape.  The tail continues wriggling while the rest of the reptile has escaped.  Eventually the tail will regenerate, though it is sometimes deformed.



Western skink, California

The western skink has an especially beautiful tail, an azure feature that is often described as “neon.”  As the skink ages, the color can fade.


Their movement more closely resembles a snake than a lizard, because their appendages are very short.  Winding and swift, they undulate across the earth in a speedy blur.


Arid summer days in California, where there is no humidity, produce dry leaf debris on our forest floors.  After the sun has been up for an hour or more, the reptiles begin their basking.


On my morning walks when I hear a soft rustle in the leaf debris, I always stop to see what will scurry out…hoping to see the dazzling blue of this shy and resplendent creature.


Plestiodon skiltonianus distribution.png

Plestiodon skiltonianus range map. Courtesy Wikipedia

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


50 thoughts on “Western Skink

  1. This is a new one for me…..I have never heard of the Skink and the fact that it can remove it’s tail as a defence mechanism is positively amazing. Thank you, Jet for another very informative and interesting post. – Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend. Janet:)

    • I squealed with fright at reptiles when younger, but in the past 20 or so years I have fortunately changed that, and find reptiles so exciting and beautiful. I am happy to say I, too, like you, feel so lucky when a lizard or skink crosses my path. We have a walkway that literally has leaping lizards and I just love it. I am thinking of you, Sharon, and sending my best wishes for days of peace for you and your husband.

    • Autotomy (translates to self severing) is a terrific tool for many creatures like geckos, lizards, salamanders, octopus, crabs, spiders. It’s a fascinating ability, and I am pleased to have introduced it to you, Lola. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • What a rewarding comment you make, Resa — thanks so much. Just knowing one person would not be freaked or disgusted by this beautiful reptile, has made my day. 🙂

  2. So interesting. Thanks for the links, too. It helped to be able to see the legs and the size. Such a beautiful “train” on your skink!

    • I’m really glad you took the time to visit the links, Nan — lots of great information there. Thanks so much for your continued visits and kind comments.

    • Oh how wonderful to have five different skink species in Florida. It’s the warm climate and insects that make Florida so rich with reptiles. I hope you have fun seeing them all! Thank you Tiny, always a pleasure~~

    • What a delight it is, pc, to introduce skinks to you. They do occur in Canada, mostly in the southern part, but wherever they live, they are shy and hidden. Thank you, as always, for your frequent visits and comments — they are much appreciated.

    • I enjoyed visiting your site, Jacob, and seeing this impressive and interesting family tree of wordpress bloggers. I am honored to be a part of it, and thank you for including me.

  3. This is an interesting post of an animal people might ignore or don’t like to read about. After reading your comments about this particular lizard, I realize that I’ve actually seen them many times scurrying around on the ground while walking through gardens or paths during vacation time in southern California’s dry climate. (The climate in the N.W. is too wet for them.) So glad you posted this info on this small creature otherwise.

  4. Your post prompted me to look up the five lined Skink that we have here in the Southeast. I’ve seen them several times but they usually skitter away so quickly that I never noticed the color of their tails. Apparently, they also have bluish tails! Now I look forward to seeing one again to compare with the pictures 🙂

    • Oh how I love hearing you looked up your local skink and have thoughts of the future for seeing one again, BJ. I am smiling as I type, and wishing you a Happy Fourth too.

  5. Their quick darting/slithering movements tend to startle me. I did slightly to all the little bits popping up everywhere down in Florida. That said, I’ve seen the blue tail during my hikes in the El Dorado Forest not far from you. Eric also found one up in the hills at the new/old house down south. He even has a pic of it somewhere.

  6. Jet when our children were little, their favorite animal at the local zoo was the two headed skink. Really quite a wonder with it’s head and tail looking identical. Gave the poor skink a 50/50 chance with predators I suppose.
    Have you heard of the Scottish dish Cullen Skink?

    • I really love that your children had a reptile for their favorite zoo animal, Sue. (I feel like I know them after all your posts, your daughter’s wedding, and other adventures.) I looked up the two-headed skink in Wiki, and they are really cool, I see why your children would be enamored. As for the Cullen skink. I had never heard of it before (oh how I would love to visit Scotland), and when I looked it up I was relieved to know it is made of haddock and potatoes, not skinks. Thanks for your great comment and contribution, Sue — always a delight.

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