Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard
27th April 2023
By Arimbi Winoto
Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard, Tiliqua scincoides, Kerry, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Merri Creek Meanderings
The Blue Tongue Lizard or Tiliqua scincoides, is our largest skink!
Basking with tiger snakes!
They are common, but, in my experience not commonly seen around the southern end of Merri Creek. However, we did spot one basking on the rocks, high above the water, not far from, not one, but three tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus). They seemed quite comfortable with each other and the Bluey didn’t muster up the energy to show us his shockingly blue tongue, as we all gawked and pointed phone cameras at him.
They do this to scare off a potential threat and if that doesn’t work they’ll hiss and flatten themselves to appear bigger. If worse comes to worst, and they are handled or picked up, they may bite – non-venomous and because of the flat teeth, usually without breaking skin, but powerful and painful nonetheless!
Pest eating service
Their main use for these teeth is crushing and eating snails, beetles and other insects that they locate with their sense of smell, using the nose as well as their Jacobson’s organ in the roof of the mouth. They are omnivorous, also enjoying flowers, fruit and berries. They love open, dry grassy woodlands. If you’re lucky enough to have one in the garden, leave it be, make sure your cat or dog is kept away and give it a hollow log or some rocks for shelter. Be careful with the whippersnapper or shovel and certainly don’t use snail poison, because poisoned snails when eaten will also kill the skink. The odd missing strawberry is a small price to pay for their company and pest eating service.
Winter period of inactivity
Blue Tongue Lizards will be starting to look for a warm dry safe space for brumation now – a winter period of up to about three months of inactivity where their metabolism slows right down, although they may still come out to sunbake on warmer days. They are generally solitary, but in spring we’ll see them come out again to look for mates. Females reach reproductive age at about 3-4 years. In the summer they give birth to live young, about 10 of them (up to 25) – all independent from birth! They are territorial and will live for many years – up to 20 or possibly longer - growing up to 60 centimetres long.
They can have reptile ticks that attach between their thick overlapping scales, or in the ear canal. Their predators (apart from cats and humans in cars) are large birds (raptors and kookaburras) and some snakes including red-bellied black snakes … but maybe not the tiger snake, so common at Merri Creek!
Common Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides), Wildmelbourne, CC BY-NC 4.0
1. DELWP, Wildlife Fact Sheet Common Blue Tongued Lizards. Accessed 3 April 2023
2. Australian Museum, Eastern Blue Tongue Lizards. Accessed 28 April 2023
3. National Parks and Wildlife Service, S.A., Blue-tongue lizards in your backyard: Your questions answered. Accessed 3 April 2023