Lizards: Attract skinks and geckos to your garden

Attract geckos and skinks to your garden by creating a habitat with the food and shelter they need.
BARBARA SMITH

Attract geckos and skinks to your garden by creating a habitat with the food and shelter they need.

Untidy gardens are great for lizards. They need places to hide and cover when hunting, feeding and resting, and also need shelter when it's really hot or really cold.

Lounging lizards love to bask in the sun. Explore your backyard to find the perfect spot to establish your lizard habitat. Prime locations include warm, dry and sunny areas. If you already have shrubs with low intertwined branches and rocks in your garden, you're off to a great start.

Lizards enjoy hiding between cracks and under cover so any natural or found objects will provide great opportunities for designing your lounge. Rocks, rotting logs, bits of old bark, terracotta tiles, corrugated iron pieces, planks of wood, firewood and old concrete slabs are useful items you may find lying around in your garden. Stack any combination of these materials loosely so there are plenty of cracks and holes for lizards to squeeze into. 

Lizards appreciate their privacy so choosing a spot that has thick groundcover will help them feel right at home.

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Lizards are vulnerable to mammals and, while backyard visitors such as hedgehogs, stoats and ferrets present danger, your own pets might pose the biggest threat. To keep your lizards nice and safe put netting over your lounge creation. 

While it's tempting to stroke or pat your new scaly friends, it's important to give lizards their personal space and observe from a distance.

Winter is tough for cold-blooded creatures. Without warmth from sunlight, lizards move more slowly, making them more vulnerable to prey. Provide plenty of safe retreats to ensure your guests stay happy over the winter.

Keep your lizards hydrated by placing water bowls in their lounge.

Lizards are very loyal, and once they've found their favourite spot it's likely they'll be with you for many years to come!

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Tell the Department of Conservation about your lizard lounge at kiwiguardians.co.nz and you'll receive a Toyota Kiwi Guardians medal in the post! The Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme encourages kids to participate in family activities at parks and reserves, or become weed warriors and pest detectives in their own yards. 

DID YOU KNOW?

* Over 99 species of lizard live in New Zealand. 33 of our skinks aren't found anywhere else in the world.

* Geckos and skinks are two types of lizard. They are easy to tell apart as skinks have sleek bodies whereas geckos have velvety skin. Geckos are unique in that they don't have eyelids but instead lick their eyeballs, which have clear membranes to protect them.

* Skinks are slimmer than geckos. They have narrow heads and small eyes, a narrow neck, which is nearly as wide as the head, and smooth, shiny, fish-like scales on the surface of the skin.

* Lizards like to squeeze into body-sized holes no more than 5-19mm wide. They like plenty of holes because many lizards are territorial so they need their own space. They like their homes to stay in one place too. If it's disturbed, they'll move out and they might not have anywhere else to go.

* Lizards help scatter the seeds of some of our native plants and may also pollinate their flowers.

* Lizards need a balanced diet of fruit, nectar and insects. Plant low-lying shrubs that supply tasty morsels for your guests. Berry- or nectar-producing plants are good, especially native divaricating shrubs. If you have a range of plants there'll be plenty to eat, all year round. Coprosma species and kawakawa provide fruit while flax, manuka and rata give nectar. Ferns, grasses and rengarenga provide cover and attract insects for lizards to eat.

 - NZ Gardener

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