Eight species of skinks are native to Texas. These small lizards resemble snakes when slithering over garden debris and paths, but they have short legs, glossy scales, and can break off their tail if needed when trying to escape a predator. They are considered beneficials as they eat insects, spiders, and small invertebrates. Skinks can grow anywhere from 6 to 13 inches. They have dark colored bodies, and some species have white stripes lengthwise on their bodies. Most juvenile skinks have a distinctive blue colored tail. They prefer a habitat with lots of leaf litter and moisture. Breeding occurs from May to October. The females of the species that inhabit Texas all lay eggs which hatch in about 2 months. Young skinks are usually on their own after 2 days.
Five-lined Skink, Plestiodon fasciatus. This is the most common skink found in Eastern Texas. Adults reach 8 inches in size and are generally, black, brown, or gray in color with five white stripes on their body. Females lay eggs and stay on their eggs through the incubation period. Young skinks are black with white stripes and have the distinctive blue colored tail.
Four-lined Skink, Plestiodon tetragrammus. This skink is found only in Texas, mainly in Central and Southwestern Texas. There are 2 subspecies of the four-line skink: long-lined skink which is gray to light brown in color and has light stripes extending beyond its forelegs but stopping at the tail. The short-line skink is darker in color and the lines end before the forelegs. Both live in lightly wooded areas but the long-lined skink prefers grasslands and the short-lined skink rocky areas. Females lays 5 to 12 eggs once a year.
Ground Skink or Little Brown Skink, Scincella lateralis. Found in Eastern and Southeastern Texas and is a smaller species of skink rarely reaching more than 6 inches. Body color is brown, tan, or gray with a single dark brown or black stripe on each side. Its preferred habitat it a deciduous wooded area and edges of ponds and streams and lots of leaf litter. Females lay clutches of several eggs.
Coal Skink, Plestiodon anthracinus. The Southern Coal Skink is found in Eastern Texas. Body size is approximately 7 inches. Body color is brown and black with two white lines on each side. The Coal Skink likes moist wooded hillsides near creeks or streams. Female Coal Skink lays a clutch of 8-9 eggs in late Spring or early Summer. Eggs hatch after 4-5 weeks.
Broad-headed Skink, Plestiodon laticeps. Eastern Texas. This is one of the largest skinks measuring up to 13 inches. Body color tends to be brown, gray, or black with five white to yellow stripes, two on each side and one down the back. Their preferred habitats are wooded areas with oak trees which they often climb. Male adults develop a large orange head during the mating season. Adult female Broad-headed skinks lay 8-22 eggs which she guards until they hatch.
Many-lined Skink, Plestiodon multivergatus epipleurotis. Also called the Variable Skink is found in Western Texas. Lives in a rocky habitat at higher elevations. Medium sized skink, 7 ½ inches with a body color that is olive brown with black stripes. Young also have the distinctive blue color tail. Adult females lay 3-9 eggs in shallow nests excavated in moist soil under logs and rocks.
Great Plains Skink, Plestiodon obsoletus. Lives in the Central and Western half of Texas. It is as large if not larger than the Broad-headed Skink measuring almost 14 inches, although, the average is probably 9 inches. Prefers grasslands and prairies in areas near water. Adults have a gold-yellow coloring while young hatchlings are black with bright blue tails. Adult females lay anywhere from 5 to 32 eggs which they guard until the eggs are hatched in 2 months in late summer.
Southern Prairie Skink, Plestiodon septentrionalis obtusirostris. This is a subspecies of P. septentrionalis and occurs in Central and Northern Texas. Preferred habitat is sandy soils in grasslands and along rivers. Prairie skink measure 5 to 9 inches and are tan or brown colored. Thin light stripes run across the sides and back. Young adults have the characteristic blue colored tail. Breeding season starts late spring and females lay a clutch of 8-10 eggs that hatch in August.
The only skink I have seen is the Ground Skink, but sightings have been noted in my neighborhood. Let me know if you see one.