The Coast Horned lizard, Phrynosoma cornatum
Behavior of the Horned Lizards
The Horned lizard escapes predation by staying still and
blending into their back ground. They look just like decomposed
granite! When a predator is too close they will run very fast and then
abruptly stop and stand still. When they are threatened, they are able
to squirt blood from their eyes (at most only a few feet, usually not
even that). This has a tendency to distract predators especially
The Horned lizard is an odd looking lizard. Its body is covered
in horny scales the longest being around its head. It is often called a
horned toad because of its squat toad like appearance. Of coarse, these
guys can tolerate much hotter and drier environments than any Bufo
They are very hard to see as they blend into the soil so well.
They are able to change color to match the surrounding environment
(Cryptic coloration). They usually are only visible when they move
(when you almost step on them).
When temperatures get too hot (the middle of the day) they will
burrow into loose soil or sand to escape the heat. In the winter they
will hibernate under rocks or logs or in someone else's abandoned hole.
Diet of the Horned Lizards
The horned lizard eats arthropods, including ants, beetles, and
spiders. Ants seem to be their favorites. They usually are observed in
close proximity to ant hills. Many non native ant species have moved
into their habitats displacing or eradicating the native ant species
that the Coast horned lizard feeds on.
Habitat requirements of the Horned Lizard
The horned lizard needs bare soil; they cannot
tolerate weeds at
all (Yellow Star Thistle, Bromus and other nasties). It is very hard
for them to move around in this stuff, probably because of their width,
and they need clean loose soil to lay their eggs and to hide in.
They like clean
chaparral (uninfected with European weeds) with
loose areas of soil. They also burrow in loose soil.
The coast horned lizard is presently listed as a
Federal Special Concern species (FSC) and a
California Special Concern species (DFG-CSC). So don't collect
them! They are much happier outside than in a terrarium in your living