Eastern Water Skink
- Colour: a dark brown to olive back with a green-gold shine and small black spots. It has a yellow or white stripe that runs along each side from its eyes. Its sides are black with small white spots above, and cream to white with dark spots below. Its long tail is usually uniform in colour.
- Size: about 25 cm to 30 cm (from its snout to the end of its tail).
- Diet: small invertebrates including worms, insects and spiders, small lizards, small fish, and occasionally fruits and berries.
- Movement: fast and active, although it also basks in the sun or cools off in water to regulate its body temperature. When startled, it darts under a rock, log or leaves, or into the water where it can remain submerged for some time. It defends its territory from potential trespassers by bobbing its head.
- Breeding: mating occurs in spring after which the female gives birth to live young in summer. Between two and nine young are born in each litter and they live independently from birth.
What to Observe
- Courting / mating
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
We expect skinks to start mating and giving birth to live young earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.
When To Look
- From September through to April.
- Mating occurs in spring.
- Females give birth in summer.
Where To Look
- Coastal eastern Australia from Cooktown in northern Queensland to Bega in southern New South Wales. Also along the Murray-Darling River and its tributaries through Victoria and to the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
- Near streams, creeks and waterways in forests, woodlands, rainforests and parks, including urban areas, up to 1200 metres above sea level. However, despite its name, it can also be found in areas with no water, in sunny, open areas of parks, forests and urban areas.
- Look on rocks or logs alongside waterways, particularly near crevices or holes where they like to hide.
- They are also found in sunny, open areas in parks, forests and urban areas.
Cogger, H 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books, Australia.
Ehmann, H 1992. Encyclopedia of Australian Animals: Reptiles. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Wilson, S & Swan, G 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.
- Garden Skink: smaller (8 cm to 10 cm) and doesn’t have black spots on its back or white and black spots on its sides.
- Blue-tongue Lizard: larger, with a tail shorter than its body, and doesn’t have the stripe running along each side of its body.
- Yellow-bellied Water Skink: has dark sides with lighter spots, but not the cream-to-white colour with dark spots below. It also has a pale stripe that starts behind its mouth and heads upwards to immediately in front of its ear opening.
- Alpine Water Skink: more ‘robust’ looking and has black stripes running down the centre and sides of its back. It only occurs in the Victoria and southern NSW Alps above 1000 m, and also in the New England Plateau and Barrington Tops regions in north-eastern NSW.
Did You Know?
Eastern Water Skinks live happily in temperatures from 22.2°C to 33.9°C, so they have a wide distribution in Australia, but they can’t survive temperatures below 6°C or above 40.6°C.
Their predators include birds, big lizards, snakes, turtles and cats.