Southwest Adventure, Living & Travel

Western Banded Gecko

Coleonyx variegatus


Banded Geckos are abundant in the deserts, occupying a wide range of habitats. When protecting its territory against other males, or when captured, they emit a squeak or chirp.

Most Geckos are small, usually nocturnal lizards of the family Gekkonidae, which contains about 80 genera and about 700 species. These reptiles usually have a soft skin, a short, stout body, large head, and limbs often equipped with suction-padded digits.

Banded Geckos, genus Coleonyx, are now considered to be in the family Eublepharidae because of common differences between the eublepharids and gekkonids which set them apart from each other. Moveable eyelids and lack of expanded toepads are the most notable of the anatomical features which set Coleonyx and its allies apart from the "wall climbers such as Hemidactylus and Gekko.


Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, south and western Arizona and southern Nevada; southwestern Utah, southwestern New Mexico, south into Baja California and northern Mexico.


Rocky or sandy desert and semiarid locales into oak and pinyon-juniper woodlands up to 5,000 feet.


This beautiful, delicate-looking lizard has pale pink and brown-banded translucent skin. It is medium-sized, growing 4 to 6 inches long. The bands, which are most evident in juveniles, change into blotches and spots with age. It has supple skin, uniformly granular back scales and slender toes with no pads. The Western Banded Gecko has movable eyelids and its pupils are vertical, distinguisng it from all other lizards in the area.


The Western Banded Gecko, like other geckos, is nocturnal. It avoids the heat of the day by hiding under logs, debris and within moist rock crevices. Geckos frequent rodent burrows where they hunt insects, spiders, baby scorpions and other small arthropods.

Prey is stalked to within an inch, then captured in the jaws with a final lunge. After a meal, the gecko cleans it s face with its tongue. It also eats its old skin which peels off during the shedding process.

When threatened, geckos stand tall on their legs and wave their tail over their backs. Geckos store fat in their tails, which like most desert lizards break away then grows back. Because geckos maintain a reduced metabolism at low temperatures, their tail fat can sustain them for up to 9 months. Because the Western Banded Gecko restricts its activities to nights, it is often seen, silhouetted against the black asphalt of desert roads.

Life Cycle

Breeding occurs in April and May, a few weeks after emerging from winter hibernation. The female lays 1 to 3 clutches of 2 eggs each, May through September. Hatchlings appear July through November, about 45 days later.

Related and Subspecies

The Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis) is difficult to distinguish from the Western Banded Gecko; it occurs only in the Chihuahuan Desert of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. Geckos seen on sidewalks and house walls of urban areas are Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus), an introduced species with warty skin and lacking movable eyelids.

There are 8 subspecies of the Western Banded Gecko, 4 in the desert regions of the Southwest:

  • Desert (C.v. variegatus) southeastern California, southwestern Nevada and western Arizona
  • San Diego (C.v. abbotti) Pacific slopes of southern California into northern Baja
  • Utah (C.v. utahensis) southeastern Utah and adjacent corners of Nevada and Arizona
  • Tucson (C.v. bogerti) southeastern Arizona to southwestern New Mexico

-- A.R Royo

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