The common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) is most frequently seen on commons, heaths, moorland, dry stone walls, embankments and sea cliffs around the British Isles.
It is the only species of reptile native to Ireland. Common lizards are widespread throughout Europe, even extending into the Arctic Circle.
Typical adult size is approximately 15cm (nose to tail). Colouration is commonly a shade of brown with patterns of spots or stripes. Colour variants are not uncommon: everything from yellow through various shades of green to jet black can be encountered.
Newts, when on land, are sometimes mistaken for lizards. They can be told apart by looking at the skin: lizards have scaly rather than smooth, velvety skin. Lizards tend to move very quickly when disturbed.
Mating takes place in spring and females ‘give birth’ to inch-long lizards in August. Like the adder, the common lizard incubates its eggs internally without laying shelled eggs (like for instance the sand lizard). Juvenile lizards gradually turn a copper colour as they develop into adults. The common lizard likes open sunny places and is usually found in dry, exposed locations where dense cover exists close by. Common lizards feed predominantly on spiders and insects.
Common lizards are protected by law in Great Britain. It is illegal to deliberately kill, injure or sell/trade common lizards. In Northern Ireland they are fully protected against killing, injuring, capturing, disturbance, possession or trade.