4 Types of Geckos in Arizona

The conditions in Arizona are ideal for reptile populations to thrive. The Grand Canyon State is not just the sixth US state by land area but also provides excellent conditions for cold-blooded critters. Half of Arizona is semi-arid, and one-third is arid. Unsurprisingly, the state’s over 100 reptile species love it in this hot and sunny climate.

Did you know that Arizona is home to over 100 reptile species? But that’s not all! You can also find multiple geckos locally, both native and introduced. That’s right! The designated state reptile might be the rattlesnake, but Arizona has no shortage of beautiful geckos, either! Keep reading to learn more about them!

Mediterranean Gecko

mediterranean gecko

  • Other common names: Mediterranean house gecko, Moon lizard, Turkish gecko
  • Scientific name: Hemidactylus turcicus
  • Family: Gekkonidae
  • Origin: Country coasts surrounding the Mediterranean Sea
  • Habitat: Shrublands, wooded mountain cliffs, urban areas
  • Size: 4-5 inches
  • Lifespan: 3-9 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The Mediterranean gecko (“Med gecko” for short) is one of the most successful lizards in the wild. It thrives in many habitats and naturally occurs in over 30 countries and three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa). It’s also been introduced to the Southern US. Stable populations exist in Arizona and 18 other states.

Like most geckos, this species naturally prefers wooded areas. However, it can adapt and thrive in almost any setting. It’s also called the med house gecko because it commonly lives close to humans, hiding in walls with open cracks, attics, and baseboard buildings.

The med gecko is small, reaching a snout-to-vent length of less than 2.3 inches. It has an average-sized head, a rounded snout, and vertical pupils. The body is slender, with a proportional tail and a slightly flattened underbelly.

The skin is covered in randomly-dispersed tubercle scales of varying sizes. The back color ranges from gray to light brown. The tubercles alternate between dark brown and white. The belly is very pale and often translucent. The darker organs are readily visible through the skin.

This gecko is nocturnal and highly carnivorous. It eats a variety of insects and small invertebrates like snails. They’re docile and harmless around humans. However, males of the species are territorial and potentially aggressive around other males and juveniles. Male courtship behavior also includes aggressive behavior like biting.

Western Banded Gecko

western banded gecko

  • Scientific name: Coleonyx variegatus
  • Family: Eublepharidae
  • Origin: Southwest US, Northern Mexico
  • Habitat:  Open arid deserts and grasslands
  • Size: 4-6 inches
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

This gecko naturally occurs throughout the arid regions of Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Five documented subspecies exist, most of which can be found wildly throughout Arizona. Since these five lizards are closely related, they look very similar.

The most widespread subspecies are the Tucson banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus bogerti) and the Sonoran banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus sonoriensis). Other subspecies present in Arizona include the Desert banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus variegatus) and the Utah banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus utahensis).

Western banded geckos (and all subspecies) are small. Their snout-to-vent size measures up to 3 inches on average. The body and tail are slender and cylindrical. The head is large, and the eyes prominent, with vertical pupils. Unlike most gecko species, these lizards have well-formed and movable eyelids.

These geckos have smooth skin. The dorsal color ranges from light yellow to pale pink. The belly is pale greyish-white or pink, and the skin is almost translucent. Most notably, this species has dark brown spots and irregular horizontal bands spreading across the back and tail.

Western banded lizards typically occur in recluse desert areas but can also be seen in urban environments. They emerge at night and are attracted to landscape lights where insects are readily present. Their diet consists of a variety of invertebrates. These geckos are among the few species that keep the scorpion populations in check, as they often consume small and juvenile scorpions.

Keeled Rock Gecko

keeled rock gecko

  • Other common names: Keeled gecko, Tuberculate ground gecko, Rough-tailed gecko, Rough bow foot gecko, Rough bent-toed gecko
  • Scientific name: Cyrtopodion scabrum
  • Family: Gekkonidae
  • Origin: Western and Southern Asia
  • Habitat: Shrublands, rocky outcrops, croplands, and near farms
  • Size: 3-4.5 inches
  • Lifespan: Up to 7 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The keeled rock gecko is an exotic species. It originates in Western and Southern Asia and spans as far as Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the west and Pakistan and India in the East. Although not native to the US, this gecko has been introduced and established in the southern regions. Stable populations exist throughout Arizona and Texas.

Keeled geckos are small. They measure 3-4.5 inches from head to tail and no more than 2 inches from snout to vent. These lizards are easily distinguishable from other geckos thanks to their lanky bodies and rough skin texture. They stand out with their very long tails, legs, and toes.

They have slender bodies, limbs, and well-defined necks. The snout is small, and the eyes are large, with vertical pupils. The toe shape is unmistakable— clawed inward and almost wavy-looking. Like other terrestrial geckos, keeled geckos also lack sticky toepads.

They have small, rounded tubercles on the neck, back, limbs, and along the tail. The sides of the tail are lined with two vertical rows of spine-like scales. Their ground body color can be light grey, light brown, tan, or cream. The dorsal side is covered in small dark splotches that go from snout to tail. The tubercles and tail spines are pale.

Keeled rock geckos are successful in various habitats, including forested areas, rocky outcrops, and even human farms. They consume insects and other small invertebrates, protecting human crops from pests. These geckos are nocturnal ambush predators. You might see them lying near outdoor light sources, waiting for prey at night.

Yellow-Headed Gecko

yellow headed gecko

  • Other common names: White-throated gecko, White-throated clawed gecko
  • Scientific name: Gonatodes albogularis
  • Family: Sphaerodactylidae
  • Origin: Central and South American continent
  • Habitat: Tropical dry forests, forest edges, urban environments
  • Size: 2.7-3.9 inches
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Conservation status: Least concern

The yellow-headed gecko originates in Central and Southern America. Large populations are common in Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico. People have spotted specimens further North in the lower US states, particularly those bordering Mexico (including Arizona).

Yellow-headed geckos are small lizards and measure 2.7-3.5 inches on average. But they have strong-looking bodies, long tapered tails, and stout limbs. This species is highly sexually dimorphic. Males are larger than females and have dark blue bodies and orange or yellow-colored heads.

Females and juveniles have uniform grey to light brown bodies and heads. This lizard has a few uncommon traits compared to other geckos. First, these geckos have round pupils, which suggests they’re diurnal. Secondly, this gecko doesn’t have sticky toepads for climbing smooth surfaces. That’s because this is a mostly terrestrial species.

This species is most active during the day. It’s highly carnivorous, so most of its diet consists of insects. These lizards, which are harmless to humans, sometimes hunt for insects in urban environments. They can be hostile to other lizards, competing males of the same species, and predators.


Hot and sunny Arizona is home to multiple fascinating geckos. The western banded gecko is the most notable native species. Numerous similar-looking sub-species exist throughout the state. But the semi-arid climate is hospitable for many other reptile species.

That’s why introduced populations of Mediterranean, yellow-headed, and keeled rock geckos are also thriving locally. Whether you’re interested in diurnal, nocturnal, terrestrial, or arboreal geckos, Arizona’s got them all!

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...