Collared Lizard

Crotaphytus collaris

collared lizard
Collared lizard, Johnson County, Illinois. Photo by Mike Redmer

Key Characters: Large head; narrow neck; long, round tail; two black collars on the back of the neck.

Similar Species: A distinctive species not easily confused.

Subspecies: Eastern collared lizard, Cccollaris.

Description: A large (up to 35 cm TL), green, blue-green, or straw yellow lizard with a light belly and an orange or yellow throat. Back usually covered with small light spots (except in juveniles, which have dark crossbands). Male much brighter than female.

Habitat: Bluffs, rock ledges, and rocky forest openings (glades).

Natural History: This lizard looks like it would be more at home in the deserts of Arizona than in Illinois. Male frequently sits on the top of the highest rock in its home range as if to advertise its presence. Mating takes place in the spring and eggs are laid in late June to July. Clutch size is normally 3-10 eggs and the hatchlings (ca. 9 cm TL) appear in August or September. Collared lizards feed on insects (especially grasshoppers) and small lizards. The main predators are snakes and hawks.

Status: State watch list (status undetermined). This lizard is known from a single locality in Johnson County. It was almost certainly introduced there in the early 1990s.

map of collared lizard distribution in Illinois
Map showing the distribution of the collared lizard in Illinois. Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only. NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.