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The Blood Sucking Lizard (it may sometimes have a red head, but it does not really suck blood!)

I adore these lizards, as they have so much character, and you can often get very close, as they cock their head to one side, as tho’ summing you up.

There are a good many around now, sunning themselves, checking you out, looking for mating partners, jumping to eat a tasty grasshopper, bobbing their heads, and normally not moving until you are almost close enough to touch them. Look for them on top of hedgerows, like in Lions Park Sai Kung, or around the low concrete walls at Kadoorie farm. I often see 3 or 4 a day when I walk in these lovely parks.

Here is a juvenile with a completely different pattern, seen in TaiPoKau.

Sometimes called the "Bloodsucking lizard" as the myth exists that they drink blood, probably due to the Male which can have a bright red throat during mating season. And yes, they can change colour quite quickly, dark and light, brown or pale. Also called the common garden lizard, but I prefer Changeable Lizard, not least because of the variety of colours that they have, and watching them change colour is to witness an incredible feat of nature.

These are Hong Kong’s only “Agamids” (Calotes versicolor). They have a crest of enlarged scales down the dorsal (top) surface of the neck and fore part of the body. Compare the colouration of these lizards:

Fascinating facts:

  • Lizards smell by licking in the air just like snakes do.

  • These lizards have extremely acute colour vision, and they primarily use their sight not only to locate their prey but for communicating with each other.

  • Look for signs which are very important to their behaviour, such as their body posture, specific movements, and gestures since these signs mark territories, attract counterparts, or resolve disputes.

  • This lizard is a reptile, so it is ectothermic (cold blooded), relying on external weather conditions to power their internal physiology. They need to "fuel up" by basking in the sun during the day, and are especially sluggish at night, when there's no available energy source. The advantage of ectothermic metabolisms is that they need to eat much less than comparably sized birds and mammals; the disadvantage is that they're unable to sustain a consistently high level of activity, especially when it’s colder.

  • Their rough scaly skin represents a major evolutionary leap: for the first time, thanks to this layer of protection, animals could move away from bodies of water without risk of drying out.

  • As they grow these lizards shed their skin a few flakes at a time.

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