The Garden Skink, Lampropholis guichenoti, is dark grey, with a darker stripe commencing in front of the nostril, continuing through the eye and above the ear onto the tail. A broad dark vertebral stripe commences about the level of the forelimbs and continues onto the tail. It has a snout vent length of up to 40 mm.
Garden SkinkPhotographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty. Ltd.
The Garden Skink is the most common skink found in suburban gardens around Melbourne. It is found over most areas of the state except the semi arid northern and western regions. It lives in a variety of treed habitats.
Active by day, this is a sun loving species which feeds on small invertebrates. Females lay from 2-6 eggs in a communal nest which can contain up to 250 eggs. Females often produce more than one clutch per season.
Cogger, H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books.
Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.
The rule of thumb with skinks seems to be: the bigger they are, the longer they live. Garden skinks have a short life span of only a few years, whereas somewhat larger varieties live six to 10 years, and the largest skinks can live 20 years or longer. The colder climate does slow their growth rate and results in a slightly longer life span.
Hi Evan, providing good habitat for your skinks is the best way to encourage them into your backyard. Giving them shelter to retreat to (such as rocks to hide under / between) and places to bask in the sun close to these retreats is ideal. They feed on invertebrates from around the garden so ensuring you don’t spray too many pesticides around the garden is also important. Another factor that may help encourage skinks into your garden is to consider if there are any pets such as cats and dogs who quite enjoy chasing skinks. Keeping these animals away from the habitat you create will be important to help the skinks establish into your garden.
All the best with making a comfortable home for the local residents.
Hi Georgie, Garden skinks are very hard to tell male or female and so photos that guide you are not available. Some experienced owners suggest the following: if the base of the skink enclosure is a smooth dark coloured mat you may find clear waxy bits on it during spring. This depends on your skink being an adult and the presence of these waxy bits would mean it was a male.
Hi Jane, on the one hand, garden skinks definitely feed on earthworms and that's probably the reason the skink is living there - an almost limitless supply of food. Not to mention all the other small invertebrates that inhabit worm farms and would make equally good food. On the other hand, there's only so many earthworms a single skink of that size would be able to consume, so it may not have much impact on the overall worm numbers.
A substrate of sand or cocopeat or a mixture of the two should be at least 5cm deep with leaf litter at one end that will encourage them to lay eggs. Most southern Australian species need a period of cool temperatures without a basking light and without feeding for them to hibernate if they are to breed. We don't know any other method to encourage breeding without a hibernation period.
Skinks generally require a specialised incubator and quite specific conditions for them to survive. Your set-up is reasonably good, but may not be exactly what they need. The best thing is to let them go in the garden as soon as they hatch.
Hi Holly!Yes, a female skink does need a male skink to reproduce. Depending on what species you have, it will usually lay eggs. Some species, however, do not lay eggs and give birth to young skinks.
Hi Pearl, many skinks have yellow bellies for at least some part of their lives, so it depends which species of skink you’re referring to. For example, both sexes of the Water Skink (Eulamprus tympanum) have yellow bellies, but in other species only the male has a yellow belly and only in the breeding season. The colouring may be a warning to other males or to make them more attractive to females. If this doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, send in a photo and we’ll try to tell you which species you have.
Generally a yellow belly signifies a male, although in some species the belly of both male and female can be yellow. It depends which species you have. There are more than 40 skink species in New Zealand, so it is difficult for us to pin down the right one. The adult body length of the skink will also be determined by which species it is.
Skinks will eat small snails and finely diced vegetables as well as lettuce and banana. They also eat crickets and cockroaches and prefer to chase these around the enclosure.
Hi Katie, in the wild, garden skinks would generally feed every day and can be fed daily in captivity, but will also be fine if fed every second day. You’re feeding it an excellent range of food, and any one of those components can be included on any particularly day (the skink doesn’t need fruit and eggs and vegetables and live prey every day). It sounds like it’s being well looked after.
If you’re worried about the skink’s health at any time, you should take it along to the vet. There are vets that specialise in reptiles and these are listed on the internet but you can also be referred to one from your local vet.
Hi Katie, at this time of year, skinks do not need much food and will easily cope for a week whilst you’re away. If you are heating the enclosure, it might help to turn the heating off so the skink becomes less active (they do that during winter anyway). Make sure you don’t feed the skink for a week beforehand if you turn off the heat – this will give the skink sufficient time to digest whatever food it has in its stomach before becoming inactive.
Male Common Garden Skinks do not have a yellow belly – it could be a Three-Toed Skink or McCoy’s Skink.
Hi Lone - in most cases a permit is required to keep native animals depending on the species, and in all cases the animals kept in captivity should come from captive stock such as from keepers or pet suppliers rather than capturing the animal yourself.
You shouldn't capture a wild native animal and keep it as a pet for a number of reasons, so we strongly reccommend you let the skink go in the same location you found it for its best chance at survival. You can read more about wildlife permits, animal welfare considerations and regulations at the DSE website here.
Hope this helps
Hi Chloe, the fact the eggs have been laid in the enclosure suggests the adults consider the habitat you've provided to be suitable for incubation. So the best option is to leave them where they are, whilst keeping them warm and moist. Alternatively, you can remove them and place them in an incubation medium (such as vermiculite) in a shallow container, leaving about one third of the egg surfaces exposed. The container should have a lid with small holes punctured in it, the humidity should be kept high by spraying every day, and the temperature should be kept around 25 degrees celsius. The eggs will begin to shrivel if they become to dry (and also if they die). If you need more information, there are plenty of reptile discussion forums on the internet.
If the eggs hatch, you should remove the young skinks and keep them separately. They will feed on a similar diet to the adults, just much smaller quantities.
Hi Joseph, most fish in fish ponds tend to be live bearers and so the lizards won't be eating eggs. There aren't really any types of skinks in your area that would pose a threat to pond fish of any age. The Eastern Water Skink has a semi-aquatic lifestyle but they tend not to feed in the water, and Eastern Water Dragons might but they are distinctively different to skinks and not easily confused with them.
The answer partly depends on what type of skinks you have. Most of the smaller skinks appear quite happy living in the same enclosure, but other usually larger species will fight if males are left together. And as a general rule skinks will not be able to climb out of their enclosure, although some species can climb up the corners of glass tanks if the circumstances are right. So unless enclosure furnishings are close to the top or there is some other means of assistance, the lizards should be fairly safe without a lid.
If you do place a lid on the enclosure, you’ll need to allow for UV light to enter, as all lizards require this light to remain healthy. UV light is blocked by a range of materials, including glass, so a mesh lid is preferable.
Remember too that in Victoria you must have a licence for skinks (depending on the species) and have bought them from a pet shop, otherwise it is illegal to keep them.
Hello Rachel - we checked this with our Live Exhibits team, and they've responded as follows:
The best way to stimulate the appetite of the skinks is to offer them live prey. You can either catch some yourself, and this is a good time of year to do it, or you can buy small crickets from most pet shops. You don't mention the species of skink you have, but small individuals don't need a lot of food to sustain themselves.
Once a skink becomes adult, particularly small species, it is difficult to determine their age. Particularly because their size is due more to the amount of food they consume than how long they have been alive.
Hi Brodi, read through some of the response above in regards to sexing your skink. Check out the response form the Discovery Centre on January 18th 2012, or March 23rd 2012 or June 5th 2012!
Skinks of all kinds do hibernate during winter in southern Australia. In the reptile world, the word ‘brumation’ is often used to describe this process, as some biologists assert the way ectothermic animals such as reptiles hibernate is different to that of mammals.
If the skink is in a bad state, the best option is to take it to a vet. There are quite a few wildlife vets in the UK, including a number that specialise in reptiles. Live insects are the best source of protein for captive skinks but you can also feed canned dog food, or dry dog food soaked in water. Skinks also need vegetable matter in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. Protein should make up just more than half their dietary intake.
If you have a Common Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) it will be an egg-bearer, unlike many other skink species that are live-bearers. Female Garden Skinks generally produce about six eggs at a time, so if pregnant your skink will have a noticeably large belly. Other than this, there is no guaranteed way to determine if a skink is pregnant.
It’s unlikely that the eggs would require their mother’s attention, so the best option is to put them back in the ground. If you can find a piece of ground most similar to area of capeweed, and as close as possible, you can rebury them at about the same depth.
There are plenty of sites and discussion threads on the internet detailing the best way to keep skinks. Artificial light using a lamp designed for reptiles is better than just natural light, as you can ensure the skinks have the right amount of UV and you can control the temperature more accurately. Leaving the skinks near a window can mean they get too hot or too cold, depending on outside conditions. If kept too cold they are unlikely to be taking food at this time of year.
We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.
In the comments above you will find lots of helpful advice on how to best provide a habitat for skinks, both in your garden and in tanks. As for the tail dropping, it is unlikely that a skink will drop its tail without being threatened as the process does cause some issues for the skink. It can affect its sense of balance, reduces its fat stores and even affects its growth and reproductive processes. Healing and regrowing the tail also takes a significant amount of energy and makes skinks more susceptible to predators as they no longer have a defence mechanism.
The best answer we can give is the one we gave to Georgie on 18 January 2012. As we said then, it's very hard to tell males from females.
Unfortunately for your purposes it's not legal to capture native reptiles, including the Common Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti), and including those in your own garden. The best option is to sit quietly in the garden on a warm day and observe them in situ.
Our Live Exhibits team have responded with the following:
The most likely reason your lizard not feeding at the moment is the cooler temperatures. Reptiles tend to hibernate (brumate) in southern Australia at this time of year, or at least reduce their activities and therefore their need for food. If it’s a small species of skink, it won’t consume vast quantities of food even when hungry, and even less at this time of year. But if you’re concerned about the lizard’s health, you should take it to a veterinarian specialising in reptiles.
The Garden Skink lives in a range of habitats, including suburban gardens, and feeds on small invertebrates such as flies, ants, moths and worms - you'll find more info here in the Museum Victoria field guide.
Hi Bron, we checked this with our Live Exhibits team, who have responded as follows:
If it's a common species, it's more likely to be a Garden Skink Lampropholis guichenoti. They will also have young this time of year, and are the most common skink around Melbourne.
If the skinks are out in the garden, then they most probably just dispersed; if they were eaten then they could have been eaten by anything. In contrast, if they were together in an enclosure then she may have eaten them herself. If she doesn't have enough to eat, and with the young having nowhere to disperse to, it's entirely possible.
Unfortunately, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) states that it is not permissible to take wildlife from the wild, or keep a wild-caught specimen as a pet without the correct licence. Ideally, you should release the lizard where you found it, as translocation of individual animals can disrupt local gene pools, and contribute to the spread of disease.
In any case, our Live Exhibits team advise that two days without food is not a big deal for a skink, particularly at this time of year when the weather is cooling off and the skink would be reducing its food intake in preparation for brumation (hibernation). The skink should be fine as long as all other environmental conditions are suitable for that species, and if food is available it will feed when it feels the need.
Many lizards can go through winter without being cooled down, but if you want a more natural cycle or want the lizard to breed, you’ll need to stop feeding it now, and after a week or so start cooling it down, without heat or lights. Once they enter brumation (hibernation), any food left in the stomach may become rancid and cause serious health problems, which is why you need to stop feeding well before cooling down.
Hi Wendy, have a look at the link below, this group should be able to assist you with NZ fauna.
We have no way of knowing if it is sick or otherwise, so we cannot advise you to do anything with the lizard. To this end, we encourage you to leave it alone. Lizards are often not particularly active, especially during the colder months. It is possible that the lizard, being cold blooded, is trying to sun itself for warmth.
Hi Tom,A Garden Skink will need food every day but it may not eat every day, particularly over winter. The food should be a mix of fresh vegetables and crickets or cockroaches - the insects should be juveniles rather than adults for a small skink. Reptiles slow down over winter so if it goes into hibernation you shouldn't be feeding it at all, as the skink won't be able to digest the food. Keep in mind too, that although you may not need a licence to keep the skink, all reptiles need to be sourced from a licenced dealer rather than collected from the wild, and the wild includes your own backyard.
Hi Gail - we checked this with our Live Exhibits team, who have said you couldtry soap on the body of the skink, but try to keep the soap away from the skink’s eyes and ears. Sometimes animals enter small spaces seeking food, and if they manage to find that food there they are too fat to get back out. In that case, a couple of days without food and the skink will be skinny enough to fit through. Alternatively, skinks have backward-pointing scales which sometimes means they can get into small spaces but cannot back out again. Once again, only gentle physical persuasion or a few days’ starvation will enable the skink to escape.
That's a tricky question!
In reptiles, size is determined more by food intake than age, so it’s not possible determine the age of a Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) by size. Most reptile species have an average adult size, in the case of Garden Skinks about 90mm, but again the time take to reach adult size can vary dramatically between individuals. One indication is that the colours tend to fade as the lizard ages, but the changes are small and relative to the original colours. Research shows that the shape and appearance of Garden Skinks is determined not only by the environmental conditions around the egg, but also the conditions experienced when the lizard is young. So the short answer is that it’s not easy to determine the age of a Garden Skink.
There has been no research on this topic that we are aware of, but we can say that it probably does hurt a lizard to drop its tail, as lizards are well and truly capable of feeling pain, but it probably doesn’t hurt too much. The tail is designed to break off under pressure, allowing the lizard to get away from predators. Humans have collarbones that are designed to break under pressure to prevent other more important bones breaking, but although designed this way it doesn’t mean that a broken collarbone doesn’t hurt. The lizard’s stump is also designed to heal very quickly after the tail is dropped so the pain is most likely to be short-lived.
There are follow-up problems after the tail is dropped, the most obvious being that it can’t be dropped again if the lizard is attacked by another predator, so the lizard becomes more vulnerable to being eaten. Regrowing the tail requires a lot of energy, so juveniles stop growing for a while after losing a tail, and adults may stop breeding. In many species the tail is used to store excess fat earned during spring and summer, so the loss of that can be significant to some individuals. And finally, the tail is used for balance so lizards may have more trouble walking and climbing until the tail grows back or the lizard adjusts to life without a tail.
It probably does hurt a lizard to drop its tail, as lizards are well and truly capable of feeling pain, but it probably doesn’t hurt too much. The tail is designed to break off under pressure, allowing the lizard to get away from predators. Humans have collarbones that are designed to break under pressure to prevent other more important bones breaking, but although designed this way it doesn’t mean that a broken collarbone doesn’t hurt. The lizard’s stump is also designed to heal very quickly after the tail is dropped so the pain is most likely to be short-lived.
Hi Josh - we referred this to our expert staff in the Live Exhibits team here at the Museum, and they've replied as follows:
Sexing skinks can be easy or very difficult, depending on the species (mostly difficult). As a general rule, the body of the male is bigger than that of the female, and males have bigger jaws, broader heads and are thicker at the base of the tail. The body of the female is not only smaller, but more round. In some skinks the female is larger but as a general rule these distinctions occur across most skink species, but in many individual species the male may have colouring on the chest when mature, usually yellow or red, again depending on the species.
The best thing for an injured skink is to take it to a vet, preferably a vet that specialises in reptiles (of which there are many available these days). Bites by cats and dogs can cause infection in lizards that will kill it even if the injury is minor. Many vets treat native wildlife with no or minimal fee to the person that brings it in. Veterinary treatment will usually hasten the lizard’s recovery and get it back to the wild quicker, which can be important for its rehabilitation. Under state laws it’s illegal to collect and hold native wildlife other than for the purposes of taking it to the vet, even if the animal is collected from your own property. Your care of the lizard may be adequate, but it will get the best treatment from a reptile vet.
Hi Izzy,Garden skinks will regrow a tail at a rate depending on availability of food and a safe habitat. They eat ants and other small insects in leaf-litter, grass and rock piles. If you are caring for the skink there is a book that may help - “Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia” by Harold Cogger. On page 13 of this book is the following, “Regenerated tails may differ greatly from the original tails”. Your lizard’s tail therefore may not grow back the way it was.
We have been asked this question before, if you scroll through the Discovery Centre responses above you will find the answer! All the best.
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