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- Western Green Lizard Central
The western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) in the gallery below is one of three adult males I encountered throughout May 2021 that apparently share the same territory, an area covering a few hundred square meters that also includes my garden, the narrow road just below and parts of a horse pasture on the other side from that road. At the center of the lizards' considerable kingdom grows a young oak tree which is almost completely overgrown by different types of shrub. The one shrub dominating everything else and covering most of the other bushes and half of the oak tree with a thick carpet of lush green leaves is a beautiful fly honeysuckle whose blossoms attract a wide array of different insects. I knew that "my" western greens liked that bush, but this year I was surprised to find that pretty much the whole Lacerta bilineata population seems to have relocated there. It's become "Western Green Central", so to speak, and the lizards spend large stretches of the day in that bush. It's just across from my pergola on the other side of the road, and I can easily observe my reptilian neighbors from a short distance without disturbing them. The females, of which I counted at least four adults, rarely seem to leave that fly honeysuckle at all; each one of them inhabits a different stretch of the bush, and at least from what I've seen they remain within their fairly small "sections" of shrub without crossing the "borders" to the other ladies' territories, though the largest female does occasionally visit the ground (I'm sure the others do too, I just haven't seen them do it yet). The three males climb around in the whole bush; they seem to "travel" back and forth between the different females, but never at the same time. They clearly try to avoid each other and pick different times of the day to be in the fly honeysuckle. There's also several youngsters that I believe hatched only last summer/autumn; I could tell apart at least two individuals (because one has a very distinct deformed scale on its head), though I believe there's at least half a dozen who are just hard to distinguish because they haven't developed any discernible color patterns yet (they're mostly just brown with yellowish green bellies and throats). It obviously makes sense that "my" lizards colonized that bush; the fly honeysuckle provides them with excellent cover (especially the youngsters and the females blend in so perfectly with its leaves they become virtually invisible); it offers safety from predators that hunt lizards mainly on the ground like cats or green whip snakes, and, perhaps most importantly, there's an abundance of food (even when it isn't blossoming the bush is visited and inhabited by all kinds of spiders, snails and insects, particularly by flies). So most of the photos I was able to take this year were either from animals in that bush or were taken on the ground right next to it. This beautiful male enjoying the morning sun on the leaves of the fly honeysuckle is now the first I'll share here. These were also some of the first photos I was able to shoot of Lacerta bilineata with my new camera (for the nerds among you: it's a Sony DSC RX10 MIV, and I'm very happy with it).
- Western Green Lizard Yoga
This juvenile Lacerta bilineata is again the one with the distinct dark scale on its head that has chosen my garden as its habitat, at least during the month of May in 2021. The little fella's favorite spot is usually a nice, flat rock underneath the zucchini seedlings, but here he for once chose a concrete brick (which I actually had put in place hoping it would make for a good sun-basking spot for lizards, so this made me happy :-). It was very funny watching this baby lizard enjoy the sun on that rock, and as it was constantly shifting position to find the perfect one where it would be most comfy while also getting the maximum amount of sunlight, I couldn't help but thinking of someone doing yoga positions. As I was getting closer with my camera I seem to have broken his concentration though, and as you can see by the funny looks he gave me, he didn't trust that weird two-legged giant with his strange apparatus for a second.
- Western Green Lizard - Alien Food
Our local Lacerta bilineata population - as I have mentioned in other blog posts before - currently resides in a fly honeysuckle shrub that has overgrown a young oak tree. There's many good reasosn why these western green lizards have colonized that bush: it provides safety from ground predators, lots of cover from danger above like hawks, plus the reptiles' natural green camouflage blends in excellently with the thick carpet of leaves that stretches over seven or eight meters. But what I've noticed also is that even before the fly honeysuckle starts blossoming and becomes a virtual bug El Dorado, it already attracts countless insects; especially flies seem to be almost magically drawn to its leaves (one would guess this is also how the plant came by its name ;-). These flies obviously are an excellent food source for the lizards, and as I've come to observe, for juvenile Lacerta bilineata in particular it might even be vital that their prey practically flies into their mouth, and they don't have to move around a lot to find food. The baby lizards are very vulnerable to predators, and they usually remain motionless among the leaves and mostly rely on their brown-green camouflage when danger approaches. Unlike the adults, which flee often long before you even see them, in my experience the youngsters only take flight at the last moment. This makes sense; as long as they don't move, in addition to being nearly invisible they also don't cause any vibrations or noise, and so predators such as snakes, cats or birds of prey would have a very hard time to find them. The baby lizards I was able to observe oftentimes would remain in the exact same spot for hours; they would just wait motionless until an unlucky fly would land on a leaf right in front of their mouths. And then they would only have to do a quick little forwad movement with their head to get dinner - without drawing any dangerous attention to themselves. So the gallery below is dedicated to those flies (all of them photographed on that honeysuckle shrub in May 2021). Apart from being an excellent food source for many animals, these insects are also important pollinators for many plants, and viewed up close they are of a striking alien beauty that never fails to fascinate me.
- Lacerta Bilineata: The Western Green Lizard | Lacerta Bilineata
Out of gallery About this site: I'm not a professional photographer, I'm just a guy with a camera who loves to observe the wildlife around his vacation home in the beautiful Malcantone region of the Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Over the years, one particular animal has captured my attention more than any other of the various non-human visitors and residents in my garden, because its exotic beauty and considerable size (up to 45 cm/17.7 inches including the tail) immediately draw the eye: the western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata), which the locals call "ramarro" or "ghezz/sghezz". In the local Italian dialect, the word "sghezzare" means "to scare", and I can kinda see how that name for the animal came about; not only is this "flamboyant" little dragon much bigger than all other lizards in the region, it also displays such stunning colors - particularly during mating season - that upon an unexpected first sighting where it might suddenly scurry across your path it could certainly give you a good scare. My own first impression was that this had to be something escaped from a zoo, since encountering such a "bird of paradise" outside a tropical jungle (and in my garden of all places!) seemed weirdly out of place. But nope, the "ramarro" belongs as much to the local fauna as its smaller cousin, the common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), and although it is much rarer than its less eccentric looking relative and usually flees immediately when approached, with a little patience (and through the high art of the sneaky stealth approach which I have perfected ;-) it's possible to observe it up close and capture it on camera. Also, I've found these lizards to be rather intelligent; they keenly observe their surroundings and seem very curious as to what goes on in their territory. On more than one occasion when I've been rummaging around in the garden (cutting the grass or plucking weeds from the vegetable patch) I've unexpectedly found myself at the center of reptilian scrutiny as a male ramarro would emerge from its hiding place and observe with a critical eye what all the ruckus in its habitat was about. Despite all my noise and hectic movement - which would normally scare away reptiles such as snakes and lizards - it would remain there and watch me attentively, and I could even observe how it would later go on to closely inspect the premises once I had stopped my activity and retreated to a certain distance. I know as humans we tend to humanize animal behavior (and I'm obviously guilty of that as well), but it's hard not to once you observe the expressive eyes of a "ghezz" up close. I've also found that these animals adapt their behavior with regards to humans over time; once they've decided you're not a threat - which is usually after you've consistently been entering their habitat for a couple of days - they become more tolerant of your presence and only flee when your approach is sudden and unexpected or you get far within their flight zone. Out of gallery I know from Youtube videos that there are people who managed to gain the trust of wild green lizards to the point where they were able to feed them by hand or even stroke them, but I've never attempted to do that myself. I'm content to observe their natural behavior, and I'm more than happy if I succeed in taking a good picture every once in a while - which I can then share with people who have a similar passion for the beauty of nature as I do. And that, my friends, is precisely the purpose of this website: to share pics of this beautiful animal (and occasionally other visitors to my garden of the non-homo-sapiens-sapiens variety) with like-minded folk. All the photos you find here were taken in and around my garden and only depict wild animals (and for the nerds among you: the camera I used from 2021 onwards is a Sony DSC RX10 Mark IV; the older photos were with very few exceptions taken with a Canon PowerShot SX 700 HS). As already mentioned I'm not a professional photographer, so please do excuse the somewhat varying quality of the pictures. Oh, and I'm not a biologist or lizard expert either (though a friend of mine jokingly calls me a "ghezzpert" sometimes ;-), so if you notice I messed up the description of a photo, don't hesitate to let me know. That's all; I hope you enjoy these pics - and don't be shy to use the comments section underneath the blog photos if you feel like letting me know your thoughts or if you have questions.
- Western Green Lizard: Species Description | Lacerta Bilineata
WESTERN GREEN LIZARD: SPECIES DESCRIPTION INTRODUCTION I spend a lot of time observing western green lizards, but I'm by no means an expert on Lacerta bilineata. So because I want to provide anyone who comes to this site with accurate information on the species rather than just my own findings and speculations, what you'll read below is more or less directly copied from French, Italian, English and German Wikipedia pages on Lacerta bilineata. In some paragraphs I did use my own descriptions though (for example, the descriptions of adult male and female color patterns are based on my own observations which I can back up with photos). But this page here is supposed to give you only factual information; for my own experiences with the animals and some of my (probably not very scientifically accurate) musings about them just visit the photo blog here or read my introduction on the HOME page. The one map below depicting the distribution range of Lacerta bilineata and Lacerta viridis below is also from Wikipedia (authorship by Christian Fischer ). The photos are all from inside and around my garden in Monteggio, Ticino (Switzerland). Interestingly, the Wiki articles in the different languages differ in some small details and also in the amount of information they offer (the most informative article about this particular lizard is the one in German for those who are interested). An example for some of the differing details would be how the articles don't quite seem to agree on the size/length of the animal: English and German Wiki state that the lizards reach a length of up to 40 cm, while French Wiki only speaks of an average size of 30 cm, and Italian Wiki claims the species reaches up to 45 cm. From my personal observations I definitely agree with Italian Wiki as I estimated the size of the largest males I encountered in the Malcantone region of Ticino (Switzerland) - which is where I took all the photos on this site - at more then 40 cm. It would appear logical though that there are regional differences in the size of the species. Anyway, in such cases where the information slightly varies across the different articles, I went with a good old compromise (which means here you'll read that the species Lacerta bilineata typically reaches a size of between 30-45 cm). For the original Wikipedia pages, just click on the links here: Italiano; Français; English ; Deutsch . ETYMOLOGY The genus name Lacerta and the species name bilineata are Latin words respectively meaning “lizard” and “with two lines”, with reference to the pale lines present on the flanks of the young individuals. FAMILY / SPECIES / DISTRIBUTION The western green lizard belongs to the family Lacertidae ( Wikipedia link for Lacertidae : It ; Fr ; En ; De ). This is the family of the wall lizards, true lizards, or sometimes simply lacertas, which are native to Europe , Africa , and Asia . The group includes the genus Lacerta, which contains some of the most commonly seen lizard species in Europe. It is a diverse family with at least 300 species in 39 genera. The closest relative of the western green lizard is the European green lizard (Lacerta viridis; Wikipedia link: It ; Fr ; En ; De ) which is more common in south-eastern regions of Europe. The two species are not easily distinguished without genetic analysis and get often confused; in fact, they were only recognized as different species as recently as 1991. The map shows the distribution range for Lacerta bilineata (green) and Lacerta viridis (blue) and the small area (yellow) where a degree of hybridization between the two species occurs (link for the map: Wikipedia ). Lacerta bilineata is native in Andorra, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Serbia, Slowenia, Spain, and Switzerland. It was introduced in Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Isles and the United States, and there are also introduced colonies on the south coast of the U.K, notably around Poole Bay in Dorset. DESCRIPTION Adult western green lizards reach a length of 30 to 45 centimeters including tail (there may be regional differences regarding the size of the species). The tail may reach up to twice the body length. The average weight is about 35 grams. Males are generally a bit bigger than females, with a slightly bulkier head and body. With females of the species colors and color patterns can vary greatly and range from dark green and brown to shining emerald green, turquoise and blue and everything in between, even male colors (as you can see in the last image in the gallery below). Out of gallery Adult males tend to look more alike (though there are variations too), with their back usually a striking yellowish to emerald green interspersed with black dots, a yellow or yellow-green belly and blue face, all of which much more pronounced during mating season (the adult male lizards in the first five pictures in the gallery below are all different individuals, but they all were photographed during mating season when their colors were particularly intense). Out of gallery As juveniles the lizards are mostly brown with a yellowish green chest and belly. Within a year, as adolescents and sub-adults, they develop white lines or dots on both flanks often in combination with black spots until their eventual color patterns start to shine through (as already mentioned above, those two white lines are also responsible for the species' Latin name "bilineata" which means "two-lined") . Out of gallery REPRODUCTION, BEHAVIOR, DIET AND LIFE EXPECTANCY Western green lizards attain sexual maturity at around two years. They are territorial animals; the males fight each other, especially during the mating period, when they are very aggressive towards rivals. The mating ritual is precise, and starts with a bite to the base of the female's tail. The females lay 6 to 25 eggs in a humid and warm site, such as in a decomposing log. The baby lizards hatch after 70 - 100 days depending on the surrounding temperatures and already have a size of 8 - 10 centimeters. As reptiles, the lizards are ectotherms, meaning their body temperature depends on that of their environment. This, by the way, is also why the best time to observe Lacerta bilineata is during the morning hours in spring when the air is still relatively cool, because the animals need to raise their body temperature before they can get into action mode. That's when you'll be able to spot them in places that are exposed to the morning sun, taking extensive sunbaths (which they often also do in the evening). Once they're warm enough to get more active, the lizards go hunting in the grass and in the bushes, where their green color makes them virtually disappear. Western green lizards are predators and very agile hunters. Like most lizards they're excellent climbers and often hunt in bushes and trees, depending on their habitat, but they can also jump pretty high as you can see in the first video clip below (the animal in the clip is an adult female who had seen an insect she desired). They feed on arthropods, mainly large insects, but basically anything they can overwhelm that fits into their mouth ranging from small lizards to baby mice is on their menu (the animal in the second clip is a juvenile foraging for food). They themselves are prey to cats, foxes, martens, weasels, birds of prey and snakes (and other predators who hunt animals of comparable size). It is assumed that western green lizards can have a life span of 10 - 15 years, although most individuals don't survive their first year. During the coldest months of the year, western green lizards hibernate, usually from around mid-October; the exact time depends heavily on the temperatures. In ideal weather conditions, they emerge from their winter hiding places around the middle of March, usually the males first, followed by the females a few weeks later. HABITAT The Lacerta bilineata's natural habitats are woods, shrubland , open grassland , arable land , and pastureland (most of which can thankfully be found in and around my garden). It is threatened by habitat loss .
- GREEN LIZARD PHOTO BLOG | Lacerta Bilineata
Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 3 min Western Green Lizard Central The western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) in the gallery below is one of three adult males I encountered throughout May 2021... 17 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 1 min Western Green Lizard Yoga This juvenile Lacerta bilineata is again the one with the distinct dark scale on its head that has chosen my garden as its habitat... 27 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 2 min Western Green Lizard - Alien Food Flies obviously are an excellent food source for lizards, and as I've come to observe, for juvenile Lacerta bilineata in particular... 11 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 2 min Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis Muralis Common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) often share the same habitat with western green lizards (Lacerta bilineata), and although my blog... 13 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 2 min Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata): Daily Routine The Lacerta bilineata in the photo gallery below is one of three adult males that currently seem to rule "my" little lizard kingdom... 8 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 2 min Western Green Lizard Bush Babies Juvenile western green lizards mostly live, hide and hunt between the leaves of bushes and shrubs... 4 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 1 min Western Green Lizard - Sleepy Head This juvenile lacerta bilineata is again the same individual that during the second half of May 2021 eventually chose my garden as... 0 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 1 min Common Wall Lizard - Close Up Viewed up close common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) are even more impressive, for one because their dinosaur-like appearance becomes... 0 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked Lacerta Bilineata Jul 25 2 min Western Green Lizard King The Lacerta bilineata in this photo gallery is one of three adult males that currently reign over our local western green lizard habitat... 3 views 0 comments Post not marked as liked