Creating wildlife habitats for lizards

Posted: Friday 3 May 2013
by Kate Bradbury

I saw a lot of lizards on my trip around South America. There were some that blend in perfectly with the red and black volcanic environment they inhabit.

larva lizard

I saw a lot of lizards on my trip around South America. There were brown lizards, green lizards, bright blue ones, and some that blend in perfectly with the red and black volcanic environment they inhabit.

I was lucky enough to see a pair of lizards mating in Colombia. The male literally ran rings around the female and then grabbed hold of her tail with his teeth so she couldn't get away (she didn't seem to mind). But it's in the Galapagos that the lizards really impress. Despite it being more famous for its giant tortoises and blue- and red-footed boobies, it’s also home to a wide variety of lizards. Each one has adapted to the specific environment it inhabits.

Walking around Isabela island (the largest island on the Galapagos), I visited 'The Wall of Tears', which was built by convicts held there during the Second World War. There, it was said that, “the weak die and the strong cry”. The convicts were given the task of building a wall as something to do, and something to make them suffer.

The Wall of Tears is a dry stone wall, built with pieces of volcanic rock. It stands at about 4m tall and 20m long, in the middle of an arid landscape of cacti, giant tortoises and poisonous apple-like fruits from the Hippomane mancinella tree.

Building the wall must have been horrible, back-breaking work. But little did the convicts know, that through their tears and hardship, they were creating the most incredible lizard habitat. The black rock absorbs heat and stays warm throughout the day, making it the perfect place to bask in the sun, and it's full of nooks and crannies for lizards to hide in.

Back home, our common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) has much the same needs as these Galapagos lizards. Cold blooded, they spend the first few hours of the day sitting on a warm rock or stone, to gain enough energy from the sun to hunt for insect food. Often, they will choose a particular spot, which they regularly return to. If you disturb a basking lizard, you can try sitting quietly in the same place to see if it ventures out again.

There's something really special about seeing a lizard in the garden. It's almost as if they shouldn't be able to survive in cold, rainy Britain, and that they only belong in a more exotic world, somewhere hot and dry. But despite the cold and rainy conditions, our gardens make fantastic lizard habitats, especially if there are places for them to bask in the sun and hide from predators.

A dry stone wall makes an ideal habitat, but a log pile, or even stone or log path, can be just as effective. You don't have to build a huge habitat – a small pile or rocks or logs in a sunny part of the garden will suffice. If you can, try to create the habitat alongside an area of long grass, so there are plenty of insects to eat, and further places to hide, nest and hibernate. For me, seeing lizards in the garden is a lovely reminder of holidays. And, because they only venture out on sunny days, it means that finally, we're having some good weather.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Creating wildlife habitats for lizards
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Pierre Bonte 23/07/2013 at 15:24

Hellow,whe living in France and i respect the old construction of ouer home and have a lot lizards ho climb up and down ouer walls ,its so nice to life with the nature,each days i see new bird's,animals, its amazing to rivive with nature,have a nice day ,aplus Pierre,Genevieve .

waterbutts 23/07/2013 at 15:32

Lucky Pierre and Genevieve to live in such a beautiful place!