Monday, May 27, 2013
The five-lined skink, also commonly known as the bluetail skink, is found throughout the Eastern United States. They can reach about eight inches in length. These two are a fully mature female (on the left) and a breeding male (on the right). As the female matures, the stripes fade from yellow, their main body color fades from black to the brown, and she loses the bright blue in her tail. The male turns a coppery brown and, during mating season, the male's head turns orange-red, helping to attract a female.
They are true reptiles with the claws and ear openings of a lizard. Salamanders are amphibians without ear openings. They are also poisonous to pets, so you want to keep that in mind. Our Peke, Annabelle, loves to sit out on the porch and look for them in the cracks between the decking. The skinks are very fast, so I don't think she would ever catch one. They have a tail that is easily broken off as a defense mechanism. If a predator attacks, they can leave the tail behind which continues to wiggle wildly while they escape. The tail will grow back, but it always looks a little stumpy and never attains it's original length.
I'm pretty sure these two lovebirds (or should I say, lovelizards) were aware of my presence out on the porch when these photos were taken. They seemed undisturbed by my being close by. They consume many insects (spiders, crickets, roaches, moths, ants and more), so they are beneficial to have around your home - just not inside.
They nest in rotting logs and leaf litter, laying anywhere from 4-15 eggs. The female guards the nest until the young are born, but they are left to their own after only a couple of days.
Mating is actually a slow motion, non-violent affair. All of these photos were taken during the process, but much of the time, they were simply resting motionless. I finally got so bored, I walked away. The porch must be a pretty good habitat for them because we have plenty of them around. In the more urban area we lived in several years ago, we never saw this species.