With their distinctively coloured tongues, these lizards are a common sight in many Australian backyards. With six different subspecies of Blue-tongue Lizards found around Australia, they make up the group of the largest skinks in the world.
Eastern Blue-tongues have long bodies with short stumpy legs and small claws on their fingers. While their short legs make a fast get away from predators unlikely, they do have a dramatic defence. When threatened these lizards will open their large mouths and stick out their broad bright blue tongue which contrasts against the pink of the mouth. This contrast acts as a warning bluff to predators of the potential dangers of the lizard.
Blue-tongue Lizards have adapted quite well to urban areas and have few problems living close to people. The abundance of food such as slugs, snails and cockroaches as well as food scraps found in most suburban backyards means that Blue Tongues can live in a relatively small area for their entire lives. Their congenial natures have meant that most people don’t mind sharing their gardens with Blue Tongues with many people actually encouraging them to help keep pests under control.
Blue-tongues do face some dangers in suburban areas mainly from pets and cars, but also from the use of pesticides. While Blue-tongues will not eat snail baits, they will not hesitate to munch down on a snail that has died from eating the snail bait and this means they will get the toxins into their bodies. One poisoned snail may not kill a Blue-tongue, but it does not take long for the toxins to build up in their systems leading to illness or death.
A better way of getting rid of snails is to use non- toxic methods. One such way is to bury a small plastic container up to the lid level near your plants and pour a small amount of stale beer into the bottom. Overnight the snails will be attracted to the smell of beer and fall into the container to drown and in the morning these Blue-tongue-friendly snacks can be scattered on the garden.
Eastern Blue-tongue Lizards are found throughout much of NSW with lizards in the Sydney region occurring on the coastal plain and lower Blue Mountains.
Blue-tongue Lizards live in dry forest areas preferring to hide in the cover of longs grasses and deep leaf litter. Their slivery grey and black camouflage also allows them to hide effectively in areas with large rocks and fallen logs.
Eastern Blue-tongue Lizards are able to breed every year with young usually born between December and January. Infant Blue-tongues are born live after a 3-5 month gestation period. While the usual number of young for a Blue-tongue is around 10, litters of up to 19 have been recorded with each miniature version of its parent. From the moment of arrival, Blue-tongues have to be self sufficient, getting very little help from the adults.
Diet & Behaviour
Blue-tongue Lizards are not what you would call fussy eaters. Their main diet consists of insects, snails and other small invertebrates, however they will also eat many kinds of vegetation including leaves, flowers, fruit and vegetables.Blue-tongues Lizards are active during the day, spending time in the morning basking in the sun to gain energy like all reptiles. Their optimum body temperature is between 30 and 35 degrees and during warm days they can be very active, however over night and during cold weather, Blue-tongues will often shelter underground or bury deep down in their shelters.