A Three-toed Box Turtle in Brilliant Coloration

June 2, 2016

A three-toed box turtle finds an oasis of fresh air and water at a bedrock spring seep in a field of dense grass.

Have you ever looked closely at a mature, male three-toed box turtle? You would be hard pressed to find a more striking creature. The yellow spots and orange coloration against a field of glossy black make the male extremely attractive to females of the species. The ruby-red eyes don’t hurt either!

I found this striking reptile on the farm yesterday and I couldn’t have been more impressed. He was an aggressive little fella, often scurrying away into the tall grass before I could rush back to my tripod for an image.

Photographing box turtles with a telephoto lens can be a bit tricky due to the shallow depth of field of such equipment. I always try to dial in a tight aperture setting, in this case, f/9 at 300 mm, so I can get as much focus coverage on the critter as possible. The trade-off is more detail in the background, which takes away from the “Pop” of the image. Here, I’ve tried to obtain a happy medium and I was pleased with the result.



A different view of the feisty and stunning box turtle against the moss-covered bedrock. What a treat to find this guy on the farm.



A straight-on look at the colorful critter. Three-toed box turtles can be somewhat similar to the ornate box turtle, and both are found in Missouri. A good look at the ventral shell surface, called the plastron, will help to to make a solid identification.

If you would like to learn more about amphibians and reptiles of Missouri, I suggest you pick up a copy of:  “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri” by Tom Johnson (Second Edition). It is a wonderful reference that can be purchased through the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:  DannyBrownPhotography


4 comments on “A Three-toed Box Turtle in Brilliant Coloration”

  1. We went to clifty creek this week, thanks for the idea. Thinking about Steagel Mountain, any advise on the trails difficulty?

    We enjoy all of your pictures looking forward to seeing you again at the Washington Garden Club, trying to convince my husband to be there for your presentation .

    Bonnie Riegel

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Superb images, though I can see what you mean about shallow DOF. Your settings are just right, as the setting of the farm is just right for this beautiful critter!

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