- Colour: a grey-brown to orange-brown body, which blends well with tree bark. The frill around its neck is more brightly coloured, ranging from yellow to black, mixed with orange and red. Males have a black belly.
- Its frill usually lies folded around its shoulders and neck, but as it is connected to its mouth muscles, when its jaw opens wide (such as in alarm), the frill lifts up around its head.
- Its body is relatively short with a long neck and tail.
- Size: 70 – 95 cm long (from its snout to the end of its tail) two-thirds of which is its tail. Males are bigger than females. Its frill is 20 – 25 cm in diameter.
- Diet: mainly invertebrates, including insects and spiders, but will occasionally eat small vertebrates, including mammals and other lizards. It especially likes green ants.
- Movement: active during the day, particularly during the wet season. It basks in the morning sun to raise its body temperature and give it energy to feed and run quickly for the remainder of the day. It mainly forages for food in the morning and late afternoon and spends the rest of its time on tree trunks and limbs. Its long slim front limbs and strong hind legs enable it to stretch and move easily between branches. It scans the ground for prey from the trees then rapidly descends and runs on two legs along the ground, before dropping onto four legs to seize its prey.
- If threatened, it will sit back on its hind legs and open its mouth to expand its frill. It then hisses and may jump towards the predator. If that has no effect, it will turn quickly and run away on two legs to climb the nearest tree and hide behind the trunk or a branch.
- Breeding: begins at the start of the wet season (spring). Males are very territorial and aggressive toward other males during this time. They court females by performing an elaborate dance. If a female is interested she bobs her head. Mating occurs around September after which the female lays between 8 and 14 (sometimes up to 23!) eggs in a nest 10 – 20 cm deep in the ground, usually after rain. The eggs hatch after 8 – 12 weeks and the hatchlings are completely independent, remaining together for up to 10 days in the absence of any parental care. There may be two clutches per season, depending on the availability of food and other resources.
What to Observe
- Hatched eggs
- Presence of Juveniles
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
Frill-necked Lizards may start appearing in new areas, south of their current habitats, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.
When To Look
- From September through to March
- Mating occurs around September
- Eggs are laid around November
- Eggs hatch around February
Where To Look
- Throughout northern Australia, including the Kimberley region in Western Australia, the northern part of the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula and eastern Queensland.
- In tropical to warm temperate dry forests and woodlands that have an open shrubby or tussock-grass understorey.
- Look on tree trunks and branches.
Where To Look
Maps of Habitat Suitability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
|Species range change from
current to 2070 probability
Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).
The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.
The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.
Ehmann H 1992. Encyclopedia of Australian Animals: Reptiles. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Wilson SK and Knowles DG 1988. Australia's Reptiles; a photographic reference to the terrestrial reptiles of Australia. Collins, Sydney.
Cogger H 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books, Australia.
Common or Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata): usually shorter than the Frill-necked Lizard, and doesn’t have the large loose frill sitting around its neck (rather it has a throat membrane which it inflates if threatened). It is also only found in eastern Australia, excluding Cape York Peninsula and the cooler regions of the south-east.
Did You Know?
Its frill is used for defence, by making it look bigger, and for communication. It may also be used to increase its body area, allowing it to warm up faster.
It is the largest lizard in Australia from the “dragon” family of lizards (the agamids).
Its main predators are birds such as eagles and owls, larger lizards, snakes and some mammals such as dingoes and quolls. Other threats to its survival include land clearing, habitat destruction and hunting by feral cats.