Description: 6 - 13 in (15 - 33 cm).
Broadhead skinks are the largest skink in the southeast, and with the exception
of the glass lizards, are the largest lizards in our region. These large lizards
have short legs and a streamlined body. The body is generally gray, brown, or
black, in background color with five white or yellowish stripes (two on each side
and one down the center of the back). However, adults often fade to uniform gray
or brown, and mature males develop enlarged orange heads with powerful jaws. Like
other skinks, the young have a bright blue tails and prominent stripes. Although
adult male broadhead skinks are unmistakable, females and immature lizards are
very similar in appearance to five-lined and southeastern five-lined skinks. Thus,
small skinks are best identified by close examination of the scales: broadhead
skinks have an enlarged row of scales under the tail and five labial (along the
upper lip between the nose and eye) scales.
Range and Habitat: Broadhead
skinks range throughout Georgia and South Carolina but are most common in the
Coastal Plain. This species may be found in many habitats but prefers wooded areas
and are often seen in spreading live oak trees in maritime forests.
Although they may be found both on the ground and in trees, broadhead skinks,
particularly large males, are more arboreal (tree-dwelling) than any of the other
southeastern skinks. Adults are often seen high up in trees, sunning on exposed
branches, while young are common on fallen trees and under bark or other debris.
When pursued, broadhead skinks generally run for the nearest tree or log and can
be quite difficult to capture. Like many other lizards, broadhead skinks will
break off their tails when restrained, distracting the predator and allowing the
lizard to escape.
Prey: Broadhead skinks prey on a wide variety of
insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. Large adults have powerful jaws, allowing
them to overpower virtually any invertebrate and probably the occasional other
lizard or small mammal.
Reproduction: Female broadhead skinks lay
clutches of up to 22 eggs in moist soil or rotten logs during the summer and attend
the eggs until they hatch. Male broadhead skinks are territorial and may fight
over a female.
Abundance: Broadhead skinks are common in the Coastal
Plain of Georgia and South Carolina, but are less common in the Piedmont and lower
Mountains. This species may be particularly common in coastal maritime forest
and on barrier islands.
Notes: The blue-tailed young of five-lined,
southeastern five-lined, and broadhead skinks are widely referred to as "scorpions"
and are believed to have a venomous sting. While this belief is completely false,
some scientists speculate that these skinks are bad-tasting to many predators.
Female with eggs
Juvenile five-lined skinks (pictured above) look similar to
juvenile broadhead skinks, differing only in scale patterns