Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)



The Common Lizard (also known as viviparous lizard) can live almost anywhere, but they prefer reasonably warm places with good basking sites. Adults can reach 14 cms and colouration can include shades of brown, grey and dark green. They are insect eaters and also eat small snails. Unlike newts, for which they are sometimes mistaken, lizards have dry skin. They are most easily found in springtime, when they are emerging sleepily from hibernation. By mid summer, lizards are quicker at scampering away when they are approached.





Size: Approximately 10 to 15 cms (inc tail).

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Months seen: March to October.

Habitat / Ecology: Grassland, heathland and sand dunes.Common lizards prefer warm sheltered habitats with nearby dry places where they can bask in the sunshine. In Wales they are often seen in and around dry stone walls or along railway tracks, where they bask on the stone ballast beside and between the tracks.

The majority of sightings have been on grassland, hedgerows, woodland edges, road and railway embankments. Common lizards emerge from hibernation sometimes as early as mid- February if the weather is mild. Initially they will spend long periods basking and they start to mate in April and May. The males are territorial and compete for the females, fights being commonplace. Eggs are retained in the body and 4-10 live young are born under cover, in late July or August in a membranous sac. The young lizard ruptures the membrane with a special egg-tooth and is independent of the mother.


Diet: Small insects and spiders.Common lizards eat a variety of insect and other invertebrate species.


Common lizards can be mistaken for newts but are more alert and quick moving if disturbed. They also have a dry scaly skin. Common lizards can reach a length of 18cm (7 inches) but this is rare and most are much smaller. They are variable in colour ranging from brown or yellow-brown to almost green. These green Common lizards should not be confused with Sand lizards. Male Common lizards often have darker backs with a broken striped pattern and a variable number of pale dots edged with black called ocelli. They have yellow or orange bellies which are spotted. with black markings. The female is paler, with a few scattered ocelli and some females have a continuous stripe along the centre of the back. The belly is pale yellow, usually lacking spots. The most reliable method for distinguishing between the sexes is to look for the swelling at the base of the tail in the male. Young Common lizards are very dark coloured compared to the adults and have two rows of pale spots down their back.


Special features:

The common lizard is also known as the Viviparous Lizard. They can be found lying on stones or logs in the sunshine, because they need the heat of the sun to warm their bodies. This makes them more active, and able to hunt for their food. Common lizards are good swimmers.

Female common lizards are viviparous. This simply means she retains fertilised eggs inside her body until they are almost ready to hatch. This helps to keep the eggs warm. When the time is right she lays the eggs, and within seconds the young lizards hatch out. The smooth snake, the adder and the slow worm are also viviparous.



Common lizards have an amazing way to escape capture from predators. If caught by the tail, they simply snap it off at a joint near the base, leaving the predator holding just the tail. The lizard can grow a new tail... if it lives long enough.


Protection status

Some protection under the Berne Convention as to their exploitation.

Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Schedule 5. from trade, injury and killing