The Broad-headed Skink is the largest skink in Tennessee and can be found across the state, except the extreme northeastern corner.
Description: A large, smooth-scaled lizard (6.5 to 12.5 inches in length) with short legs and stocky body. Adult males, the namesake of this species, are olive-brown with large, swollen red heads during the breeding season. Adult females are variable, but usually have up to 5 light or faded stripes on brownish body. Juveniles have 5 distinct, light colored stripes on a black background with a bright blue tail.
Similar Species: Females and juveniles easily confused with Common Five-lined Skink and Southeastern Five-lined Skink; positive identification can only be assured by examination of the scales. Common Five-lined Skinks have 4 labial scales (along the upper lip between the nose and eye) and Southeastern Five-lined Skinks do not have enlarged middle row of scales under the tail.
Habitat: Prefers moist woodlands and edges of wood lots. Found on stumps, logs, fences, old farm buildings, and in trees.
Diet: Variety of invertebrates and some small vertebrates, including other skinks.
Breeding information: Adults court and breed in spring with males being very territorial. Females lay 5-20 eggs in rotten log cavities during the summer. They will guard them for 1-2 months until hatching.
Status in Tennessee: Common throughout Tennessee except in the mountains.
• Nicknamed the "red-headed scorpion."
• Most arboreal of the TN skinks, readily running up trees to escape danger.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Rural wood lots or farm fences and buildings.
For more information:
Atlas of the Reptiles of Tennessee
The Lizards of Tennessee web site
Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.
Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.
Johnson, T.R. 2006. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO.