Identifying Lizards

Lizards are the most commonly encountered reptiles in Bangkok, and are a huge part of natural pest control. There are house geckos eating flies and mosquitoes in our rooms, Tokays munching on mice and cockroaches on the roofs, skinks and garden lizards eating up garden pests, and monitors cleaning up carrion. Bangkok would be a dirtier and more diseased place without its lizard populations. Our lizards can be divided into five main groups: geckos, skinks, agamas, lacertas, and monitors. If you saw a lizard and aren’t sure what kind it is, use the following guide.


Geckos are well-known for their soft skin, large eyes, and ability to run up and down walls. Geckos are usually seen at night, but can be found during the day inside darker areas. The following geckos are found in Bangkok:

Flat-tailed House Gecko – broad, flat tail
Flat-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus platyurus

Spiny-tailed House Gecko – spines on round tail, variable color
Spinytail House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Sri Lankan House Gecko – spines on round tail, regular dark markings on back
Sri Lankan House Gecko (Hemidactylus parvimaculatus)

Stump-toed Gecko – broad toes, soft skin, light markings behind eye
Stump-toed Gecko Gehyra mutilata

Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko – long legs with slender toes, slightly raised body scales
Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko Dixonius siamensis

Tokay Gecko – very large, blue-grey and red coloration
Tokay Gecko Gecko gekko


Skinks have long bodies and smooth scales. They are usually found hiding under rocks and debris, except for the sun skinks, which will bask in broad daylight. The following skinks are found in Bangkok:

Short-limbed Supple Skink – small, very elongated body with tiny legs
Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Bowring’s Supple Skink – stripes on sides, small, moderately elongated body
Bowring's Supple Skink Lygosoma bowringii

Common Sun Skink – large, heavy-bodied, vague lines on back
Common Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Long-tailed Sun Skink – distinct striping, large, very long tail (pictured individual has shorter regenerated tail)
Long-tailed Sun Skink Eutropis longicaudata side view

Speckled Forest Skink – medium-sized, striping towards front
Speckled Forest Skink Eutropis macularia


Lacertas are a family of slender, fast, long-tailed lizards with small scales that are usually seen out in the open during the day. The Bangkok area has one species of lacerta.

Long-tailed Grass Lizard – only lacerta, small, slender body with very long tail
Long-tailed Grass Lizard Takydromus sexlineatus in Vietnam


Agamas have rough scales and often have a small crest going down their neck. They are active during the day and are often seen on trees or other vegetation. These agamas are found in Bangkok:

Oriental Garden Lizard – crest behind head, long limbs, yellow to tan or brown
Oriental Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard – large crest, long limbs, distinct white lip, greyish to blue
Male Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus


Monitors are the giants of the lizard family. You can recognize them immediately by their characteristic heads and large size. There is only one species of monitor found in Bangkok:

Water Monitor – enormous with long head and neck
Water Monitor Varanus salvator


19 responses to “Identifying Lizards

  1. Ash

    September 26, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Did you take all of these pictures yourself? They are amazing and very helpful!

  2. Jonathan Hakim

    September 27, 2011 at 6:07 am

    There’s a watermark in the bottom right corner of each photo that identifies the photographer. In the case of this page, I took all the pictures myself except for the Long-tailed Grass Lizard.

  3. Rose Dare

    June 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Hi: I live in Miami FL and saw a lizard on the outside of my screen patio this morning. From what I could see from his underside, he was much larger than the smaller variety of lizards (we have anoles and iguanas here). He was long, maybe 12 inches or so, and very slender. When I approached him to get a better look, he took off so quickly that I couldn’t get a better look – except that I saw what looked like a fin (crest?) on the back of his head as he jumped off the screen. The slenderness resembled the long tailed grass lizard above. Any idea what this could be? I am guessing it is some exotic, as I have lived in Miami for more than 60 years and never saw anything with this body type before.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      June 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

      That sounds like a young Brown Basilisk. It’s a Central American lizard that has been introduced to Miami. The young ones are very slender, but as they grow they develop a crest – yours was probably a juvenile.

      Another possibility is a Knight Anole. That is a very large anole species (often over 12 inches long), that is originally from Cuba but has also been introduced to Miami.

      I’ve never been to Florida, so I’m definitely not an expert on their herps, but those are the two possibilities that come to mind for me. Google “juvenile brown basilisk” or “knight anole” to get an idea of what they look like.

  4. Øivind

    June 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Just had a huge Water Monitor climbing outside the semi-open laundry rooom of our house here in Bangkok. If it wasn’t for the fence I would be pretty scared. Close encounter indeed!

  5. RB Gustavson, MPH, RN

    October 12, 2015 at 8:25 am

    During a long boat tour of the canals in Bangkok spotted several of the monitors in the water.

  6. Omi

    November 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    While living in Thailand, we used to call them “chin chook” what are they known as in Florida?

  7. Jessie

    December 25, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Are the monitors here dangerous? I’m near Chiang Mai. Do they come up this far?

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      December 26, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Water Monitors can bite hard and you’d likely get a nasty infection. But they aren’t going to bite you unless you threaten them by grabbing them or getting really close.

      I’ve never seen a water monitor in Chiang Mai – they tend to be more common in the coastal provinces. However, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they were found there. The slightly smaller and very similar looking Bengal Monitor is found in the area, but isn’t particularly common.

  8. Ross Pengilley

    August 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Monitors not only have sharp teeth ,they also have very sharp claws Ra wang.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      August 19, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      And there tails are nothing to laugh at either. The only adult monitor (about 1.7 meters) I’ve ever caught by myself, I secured well so his claws and teeth couldn’t reach me….and still ended up with welts on both arms from his tail slapping back and forth.

  9. Rose

    August 20, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Thanks fir the inf. Yes, we used to have them in the house keeping car it down. We used to call them “chinchook “, and found them harmless.

  10. Bob

    February 16, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    I live on the outskirts of Bangkok (Samut Prakan) and very often here a small animal, but never see one. I am not sure of the spelling but sounds like tuckare. Maybe they get the name from the sound of their call which sounds like their name. Would you have a photo of this animal?

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      February 17, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Yes, I believe you are referring to the “Tokay Gecko”. Look for the blue-and-red gecko in the photos above.

  11. Ruslan Bykov

    February 26, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Yesterday i went out at night with the flashlight searching for reptiles in a backyard of my condo, and found an Oriental Garden Lizard sleeping on a branch of a bush. It’s eyes wasn’t closed, but it let me come really close to make a shot.

  12. kaz

    March 3, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Please give me information on Thailand Reeves’ Butterfly Lizard.

  13. Guy

    March 30, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    I have a video of one I didn’t see in your list, at least which I recognized. Email me back if you would like it. Little guy has an extremely long tail, and almost appeared to walk on his hind legs. Didn’t get to video him in motion, regrettably.

  14. Mark Weisberg

    June 20, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Thks for this. It helped my curiosity with the skink, agama, gecko I find in my area in the hills north east of saraburi province. Also i.d.’d 2 kinds of wolf snakes here. Seen and took pics of water monitor lizard in Samut Prakarn.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s