Scientific Name: Tiliqua scincoides scincoides
Tahlia Easton, Ourimbah
Oliver Horlock, Melbourne
At the onset of winter, all bluetongues enter a dormant phase, though this is not a true hibernation. On the warmest winter days they may come out to bask for short periods but no feeding takes place. As the weather warms up in spring the lizards emerge to warm their bodies, often, unfortunately, on the bitumen of roads, which often leads to devastating outcomes.
The eastern bluetongue is one of the most familiar reptiles in Australia. Large specimens may reach 60cm in total length. The legs are small and can often be overlooked, a situation which sometimes means the harmless bluetongue, with its large triangular head, is mistaken for a dangerous snake and inadvertently killed. The body is primarily grey or pale brown with around a dozen darker bands around the body and tail. The belly is cream or yellowish-white. Although not normally aggressive, bluetongues can inflict a painful bite if harassed. Usually, however, they prefer to carry out a bluff display to deter predators by emitting a loud hiss and opening the mouth to expose the vivid blue tongue.
The eastern bluetongue is a common lizard of eastern and northern Australia. Its natural habitat is woodland, grassland and heath country but it readily adapts to urban and suburban gardens and parks where it fulfills a valuable role in controlling pests such as slugs and snails.
The eastern bluetongue's diet includes vegetation, berries, flowers, insects and snails. The latter are eaten skillfully by crushing the shell and swallowing the soft body of the prey while, at the same time, the shell particles are rejected.
Bluetongues produce live young. Huge litters of up to thirty miniature lizards may be produced in late summer after the female has mated in late spring.