Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Lizards (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Lacertilia, Family Scincidae

Common Five-lined Skink
Plestiodon fasciatus

Common Five-lined Skink Adult, photo by John White
Photo of Adult Common Five-lined Skink courtesy of John White

Size

5 - 8 inches.

Appearance

  • Variable depending on age and sex.

  • Young have five yellow or white stripes on the head, black body and a blue tail.

  • Adult females resemble the young, minus the blue tail, and a dark brown to brownish-gray body.

  • Adult males are uniform tan or olive with orange-red jaws during the breeding season (May-July), the color fading thereafter.

  • Males may retain some faded juvenile striping.

  • Experienced herpers will differentiate between this species and the broad-headed skink by counting the number of labial scales on the upper lip between the nostril and the corner of the eye of the animals. Five-lined skinks have four scales; broad-headed skinks have five. This should only be attempted by experienced handlers, as these animals have powerful jaws that can deliver a painful bite.

  • Common Five-lined Skink Adult Photo by Matt Sell
    Photo of Adult Common Five-lined Skink courtesy of Matt Sell

    Common Five-lined Skink Juvenile Photo by David Kazak
    Photo of Juvenile Common Five-lined Skink courtesy of David Kazak

    Common Five-lined Skink Adult, photo by John White
    Photo of Adult Common Five-lined Skink courtesy of John White

    Habitats

    Wooded areas, usually on the ground under rocks and rotting coarse woody debris. Microhabitat is usually moist. Primarily a terrestrial skink, rather than arboreal. This is the common skink of backyards and porches.

    How to Find

    On cool days look under coarse woody debris, particularly within cutover woodlots and on wood edges. They may also be found in sawdust piles in the former.

    On hot sunny days look for them basking briefly on logs and stumps or in leaf piles. They readily bite when handled, but while painful, it seldom breaks the skin.

    Common Five-lined Skink Habitat, Photo by Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Habitat for Common Five-lined Skink courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

    Distribution in Maryland

    Found throughout Maryland, although more common on the Coastal Plain.

    Maryland Distribution map for common five-lined skink

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.