Common Side-blotched Lizard

October 22, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Common Side-blotched Lizard

Common Side-blotched Lizard
Photo: Dennis Paulson

Name: Common Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)
Order: Lizard (Squamata)
Family: Spiny Lizards (Phrynosomatidae)

What they look like

  • Common Side-blotched Lizards are small lizards that can be up to 5 inches long.
  • Can be distinguished from other small lizards by a dark blue-gray to black blotch just behind each of their front limbs.
  • Their back is light gray or tan and, although there are a wide variety of markings, most have both light and dark spots.
  • Their underside is light cream, white, or pale gray.
  • Males are more brightly colored than females and oftentimes have bright blue speckling on their tail, back, and top of their back limbs and also, especially visible during the breeding season, orange, blue, or yellow throats.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Common Side-blotched Lizards can be found from Washington south to the tip of Baja California and northern Mexico, and east to western Colorado and Texas.
  • Tend to live in sandy or rocky areas of semi-arid regions that have desert shrubs or pinyon-juniper trees.

What they eat

  • Common Side-blotched Lizards feed on beetles, ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, spiders, and scorpions.
  • Adult males may also feed on the young of their own species.

Breeding

  • In spring and summer, females lay and bury a few clutches of eggs in sandy soil.
  • Each clutch has around 2 to 5 eggs, which begin to hatch in June.

Cool Biology Facts

  • Male side-blotched lizards compete for mates using a competitive strategy that resembles a game of  Rock-Paper-Scissors. Males have orange, yellow, or blue throats. When competing for a female, orange beats blue, blue beats yellow, and yellow beats orange. This is due to different body sizes, strengths of the bond to the female, and abilities to resemble females or trick other males into believing they are female.  

Threats

  • There are no known major threats to Common Side-blotched Lizards and they are considered “least concern” due to their large distribution and large numerous stable populations.
  • View their status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Map of Side-blotched Lizard distribution in Washington state.

Map of Side-blotched Lizard distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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