Eastern Fence Lizard

Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus

Photo by Lisa Powers

Description: The Eastern fence lizard is a grayish or brownish colored lizard with keeled, pointed scales. These scales give the lizard a spiny appearance. They average between 4 to 7 1/2 inches. Males have a hyacinth to greenish - blue area on the sides of the belly and a metallic blue patch under the throat. Females are more strongly patterned with a series of wavy lines across the back and yellow, orange or a reddish area at the base of the tail.

Photo by John White

Strongly patterned female fence lizard above and male fence lizard below demonstrating the sexual dimorphism of this species.

Photo by Lisa Powers

Habitat: These lizards are often seen basking on wooden fence rails, downed trees and rocky outcrops. They may also be found in dry open wooded areas.

Photo by Lisa Powers

Life History: These lizards breed from April through September. Males set up breeding territories shortly after emerging from hibernation and will vigorously defend them against other males. They are oviparous and females lay from 3 - 13 eggs and stay nearby to protect them until they hatch. Females may lay more than 1 clutch during a summer.  Fence lizard babies are generally between 1 5/8 to 2 1/4 inches at hatching.

Fence lizards feed upon insects and other small invertebrates. Centipedes, ants, beetles, spiders and snails are all favorite prey items.

Photo by Lisa Powers

Behavior: When alarmed a fence lizard will dash up the side of the nearest tree. Another common name for this species is the fence swift because they are so fast. They are diurnal lizards and spend much of the daytime basking and watching for prey.

Photo by Lisa Powers

Range: The Eastern fence lizard is found statewide in Tennessee. It occurs as far north as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania; west to Missouri, , Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas; and south into Missippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Map by S. Marden, TWRA, GIS Lab


          Kingdom - Animalia

                    Phylum - Chordata

                              Subphylum - Vertebrata

                                        Class - Reptilia

                                                  Order - Squamata

                                                            Suborder - Iguania

                                                                      Family - Phrynosomatidae

                                                                                Genus - Sceloporus

                                                                                          Species - Sceloporus undulatus

                                                                                                    Subspecies - Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus


Reference: Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).  http://www.itis.usda.gov/index.html