Monday, May 26, 2008

King's Skink - Egernia kingii

A big, fast and sociable reptile

I first encountered this skink when walking on a rocky outcrop near Albany, Western Australia. I never saw one, but heard them scuttle away into the bush upon my approach. At that stage I had not noticed any around the Esperance region, but one day a large female payed me a visit; liked what she saw and stayed. She was attracted to my concrete veranda and a metal skid I had placed on the ground with a northerly aspect, so plenty of sun, but not the hot afternoon sun. The skid was 6' long x 15" wide and 2" in height and had openings at both ends, as far as Mrs King was concerned it was perfect and she made it her home. She arrived in late autumn and shortly after produced two young who would rest on her back as she sunbaked as winter approached. She over-wintered with them in her new home.

King's Skink - Egernia kingii

My apologises for the poor photography, but despite the three years she and numerous off-spring have lived here, they remain ever watchful and will disappear back under their skid if I stop at a window to watch them. So photos have all been taken from a distance and through a closed window, even then it was very difficult as they have excellent eyesight and are extremely shy.

The visiting male King's Skink and the slightly larger female

The large female is well over half a metre long and possibly as much as 600 mm in length. These lizards are live breeders and she has produced twins, twice a year, with the young usually remaining with her for around 12 months and sometimes even longer (she now has only a single annual litter of 4 or 5 young). She will come and go during the warmer weather, but is never away longer than 2-3 weeks. The male will visit occasionally, but does not remain long and is usually gone after a few days. However several generations living together are not unusual, although those nearing sexual maturity leave to presumably start their own families, nevertheless some do return for short periods and are accepted back into the family. Probably limited food and suitable accommodation determine the number that can remain for any length of time.

King's Skinks being sociable

In a previous post of mine concerning another large skink, the Western Blue-tongued Lizard (click item 34 in right-hand column), I produced a photograph of an aboriginal lizard trap. On other granite outcrops in the region I have come across a number of these traps and believe they were primarily used to trap the King's Lizard, which is not only shy, but very fast and would have been difficult to catch by other means.

The speckled coloration is similar for the young and adults

King's Skink - Egernia kingii

A young King's Skink who slipped into the house and took shelter in a box

Despite the large size of these lizards, I have only seen them near their nest site and although they leave highly distinctive tracks when crossing sandy areas, I have not seen these elsewhere in the district, so presume these lizards are not common.

Typical tracks of the King's Skink, note the neat straight furrow