The Eastern Collared Lizard — Charisma to Spare!

May 29, 2016

A male, collared lizard in breeding colors rises to attention on a south-facing, granite boulder at Steagall Mountain Natural Area.

Joyce and I left early this morning for a three-hour drive south to Steagall Mountain Natural Area where I hoped to find and photograph a collared lizard in breeding colors. When our friend, Bill, said he would like to come along, I was more than happy to have an extra set of eyes to help us search the rocky glades for Missouri’s most impressive lizard, reaching as much as 14″ in length, and a species of conservation concern.

We arrived at the area a couple hours after sunrise, which might seem surprising if you are a regular reader of Nature Frames, but I wasn’t in any hurry to begin our search because collared lizards do not typically come out of their hides in the rocks until the morning sun begins to warm things up. After spraying our ankles, shoes and pants for chiggers, we began our walk. I kept looking up at the clear sky, hoping for an early sighting as the light was becoming harsher by the minute.

After spotting and photographing a colorful millipede and a little prairie lizard, also known as a fence swift or fence lizard, I heard Bill call out, “Collared lizard—a nice-looking female!” Elated, even though I was hoping for a colorful male, I headed toward his voice, where I found him looking through his binoculars at a fat female collared lizard on a log at the base of a south-facing rock. I quickly set my tripod and began photographing with my lizard-lens, a 300 mm f/4 with a 1.4 TC to keep me from getting too close.

As I finished photographing the female, Bill said, “Well, that’s a lifer for me.” I said, “You’ve been holding out on me, Bill. I didn’t know you had never seen one.” It really felt great to have such early success and to witness a friend seeing his first collared lizard. The morning was off to a great start!

As we continued traipsing across the glade, doing our best not to step on all of the beautiful mosses, lichens and other plants, I heard another voice call out. This time it was Joyce, and she had her Vortex 8 x 42’s trained on the same rock where Bill had found the female. I rushed to her position and she pointed out a male atop the huge chunk of granite. She said that she had decided to return to the original rock because the presence of the female told her that a male had to be close by. Good thinking!

Again, I set my tripod, and when I brought the dazzling male into focus I knew we had what we came for. As you can see from the featured image, the collared lizard, Missouri’s most charismatic reptile, was quite photogenic. Note the double, black collar which gives the critter its name. Collared lizards were sometimes called “Mountain Boomers” by early settlers, even though they really don’t make a sound. Perhaps they were hearing chipmunks or some other vocal critter.



Another image of the male, in a different location with a beautiful background. It was hard to choose which image to use for the feature. Although I had photographed collared lizards before, in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, it was still exciting to see the turquoise shirt and mustard kerchief of this gorgeous male.



A full-length image of the male, about 10 to 12 inches long.



The female that Bill discovered at the base of the same rock where Joyce found the male. As you can see, the female’s coloration is much more subdued. Also, this one appeared a bit perturbed!



This was the first image I made of the female on the log. It shows a little more of her body coloration and her double collar.



By the time I finished photographing the male, the sun was getting so bright that I decided to call it a morning and take Joyce and Bill over to Rocky Falls as neither had seen the site before. On our way back to the 4Runner, Joyce discovered this little prairie lizard, a small male, showing off atop a fence post. He looked at us as if to say, “Hey, I have some turquoise too!” The little fella looked tiny after observing the magnificent collared lizards, but I still made an image or two, and this was my favorite.

After a visit to Rocky Falls, we stopped in Steelville for some celebratory, Ruby’s ice cream. I think Joyce and Bill were as happy for me as I was for getting the images I desired. After our dessert, we were soon back on I-44, thinking about lawns to mow and pork steaks to barbecue. It was a wonderful mid-point of the holiday weekend—the official beginning of summer.

An important note about collared lizards from the MDC website:  Collared lizards are found in the arid, southwestern U.S., but they are also able to thrive in delicate glades of the Ozark highlands in Arkansas and Missouri. They were in decline in the 1980’s but through glade restoration, as conducted and directed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, these magnificent creatures are doing well again. If you decide to go looking for collared lizards, please do not approach too close as to disturb them and never try to catch one. They are a species to be observed from a distance, and besides, they are known to deliver a significant bite.

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery and Print Information:  Danny’s Website



6 comments on “The Eastern Collared Lizard — Charisma to Spare!”

  1. Wonderful shots of that male Danny. Thanks!  Kevin

    Sent via my MUSKIE GALAXY

  2. Whoof! Those colours, and what crisp detail!

  3. Thanks so much for the wonderful images and story! 

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®4

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