common frog

Info & advice

Lizards: identification

Which species of lizard have I seen?

Quick answer
You are most likely to see Common Lizards or Slow-Worms (a leg-less lizard) as they are both widespread across the UK.

Further information
There are three species of lizard in the UK – the Common Lizard, the Sand Lizard and the Slow-Worm (a type of legless lizard often mistaken for a snake). Of these three species, you are most likely to see Slow-Worms or common lizards in your garden.

The UK’s rarest lizard, the Sand Lizard, tends only to be found in heathland or dune habitat and is unlikely to be seen at all in most gardens.

Common Lizard female basking (Rob Williams, 2011)

Common Lizard

  • Shades of brown, with some green and black shades possible
  • Up to 15cm long
  • Can be found in gardens, nature reserves, parks
  • Patterns of spots and stripes down the back
  • The lizard you are most likely to see when you’re out and about, if you’re lucky!

Sand Lizard

Sand Lizard (Photo: Tracy Farrer)

  • Shades of brown and grey, with males taking on green colours on sides in breeding season
  • Usually two strong stripes down the back
  • Dark spots, ocelli (marking that resembles an eye) or mottling on sides
  • Up to 20cm long
  • One of the UK’s rarest reptiles, only found on a few sites and nature reserves



  • A legless lizard
  • Up to 50cm long
  • Very shiny and smooth skin
  • Found in shades of brown, grey, gold and copper
  • Often have a dark stripe running along the back
  • Females and juveniles have darker sides and belly
  • Can be spotted in gardens, allotments, parks and nature reserves

Occasionally, non-native lizards are recorded in the wild, particularly the Wall Lizard and Green Lizard, and sometimes newts are mistaken for lizards as they can be a similar size, shape and colour.

Wall Lizard

Wall Lizard (photo: Tracy Farrer)

  • Non native species only found on a few sites in the UK
  • Up to 20cm long
  • Head is larger and tail longer than Common Lizard
  • Colours range from brown to grey to green

green lizard, Tracy Farrer

Green Lizard (photo: Tracy Farrer)

  • Non native species, only found on a few sites in the UK
  • Up to 35cm long
  • Females may be green or brown, males are usually green with stippling on body

It is important to report your lizard sightings to help build up local and national records of these declining species. Get in touch with the local Biological Records Centre and/or use our free Dragon Finder App if you have seen lizards in your garden.


How do I tell the difference between a lizard and a newt?

Quick answer
Lizards are scaly and very quick – if you can catch it, it’s a newt!

Further information
Many people confuse newts (on land) with Common Lizards as they can be a similar size and colour. Newts have smooth skin (which can look velvety) or skin with a ‘warty’ texture, whereas lizards have scaly skin.

Immature palmate, Mark Rowe, Devon Mar08

Palmate Newt (Photo: Mark Rowe)

Common Lizards are much more likely to scurry away very quickly when disturbed, whereas newts will make slower, lumbering movements.

If you have a chance for a closer look you could count the number of toes on the front pair of legs – newts have four toes and Common Lizards have five.

 Find out more about the native and non native reptiles you can see in the UK here.

common lizard
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