If you are interested in the Northern Blue-Tongued Skink, this quick guide will tell you what you need to know the most.
The Northern Blue-Tongued Skink is a subspecies of the Australian Skink, and is by far the most popular skink to own among bluey enthusiasts.
The Australian skink can be divided into 3 further subspecies:
- Eastern Blue-Tongue
- Northern Blue-Tongue
- Tanimbar Blue-Tongue
Although all 3 subspecies are extremely similar to one another, it is the Northern which is the most recognisable and most popular.
Native to Northern Australia, these skinks are found basically only in the Northern Region (hence their name).
They are also the largest, and the heaviest of all skinks, as they can easily weigh upwards of 1 lb (shockingly huge, right?) and grow to over 61 cm in length (about 2 feet).
Like most of the other skinks, they have a few distinguishing features.
Their most obvious characteristic is their large, notched tongue that is shaded in a bright, blueberry-ish color housed in their bright, pink mouths.
They have hilariously tiny legs and toes, which don’t allow them to move quickly.
You can usually distinguish a Northern bluey by their patterning; real Northerns will usually be a bright orange to soft peach-like color, with dark, shaded strips on their sides and backs.
Here’s usually the key though, look at their anterior legs. They almost always have no patterning on them. If you notice this, it will most likely be a genuine Northern Blue-Tongue.
Another characteristic unique to Northerns (even the other Australian subspecies don’t exhibit this) is their lower, transparent eyelids which can cover and protect their eyes from dust while still allowing them to see.
Northern Blue-Tongues are diurnal (active during the day) and live almost exclusively on the ground. They are terrible climbers and instead prefer to keep low.
They come out during the day to forage for food in tall grasses, shrubs and love to lay out in the open on rocks and the hot sand to bask. At night they find shelter, underneath rock crevices, in empty logs and any other type of natural (or man-made) safe area.
Common with skinks, Blue-Tongues aren’t exactly bold in the wild, preferring to stay near their shelter and munch on any slow-moving, smaller animals or insects that stray into their area.
They eat things such as flowers, berries, fruits, snails, insects and smaller rodents. They even will ingest tiny stones, which helps them digest their food (somewhat similar to birds).
If they are threatened or frightened, their first line of defense is to bluff; they will turn towards their predator, puff out their body to make it seem larger, open their mouth wide and flick out their bright, blue tongues all while hissing. It’s basically the skink way of saying “Don’t mess with me!” in the wild.
Because skinks don’t have sharp teeth, or long-clawed legs they are quite poor fighters. On top of this, they are very slow-moving so they generally can’t outrun their predators.
They do have another line of defense however; tail autonomy. Tail autonomy refers to the ability of a lizard to shed or drop it’s tail in high-stress situations, such as when a hawk swoops down and grabs it by the tail. If this happens, the tail will eventually be regrown, however skinks, unlike some other lizards, do not do this easily.
As far as predators are concerned, generally the biggest threats to Northerns are:
- Birds of prey (such as falcons)
- Feral dogs and cats
- Humans who mistaken them for Death Adders
These however, are not their biggest killers.
By far the biggest threat to the Northern Blue-Tongue is being road-kill, and habitat destruction.
Northern Blue-Tongues, being lizards who cannot auto-regulate their body temperature, are reliant on the environment to raise their body-heat. This is done by basking, or laying out in the sunshine on a hot area, in order to soak up important UV-A and UV-B rays.
And what’s a common hot, flat area that is perfect for basking?
Roads. In fact, it is estimated that tens of thousands of blue-tongues are maimed and killed by cars every year in Australia.
Habitat destruction and loss, usually through ploughing and farming, is another concern. It is becoming more and more common for Northerns to be found in suburban areas, cohabiting with humans, and sometimes falling prey to cats, dogs, lawn-mowers and chemical sprays.
Despite all of this, Northern Blue-Tongues are not listed as a threatened species, and keeping them as pets is fairly straight-foward and easy, especially for novices.
If you have never owned a lizard before, the Northern Blue-Tongue is definitely one of the best ways to get started, for a few reasons:
For starters, all Northern Blue-Tongues that are for sale are bred in captivity. It is illegal to export wild animals out of Australia, so any animal that makes it out (legally), has to be captive-bred. This makes them incredibly tame and docile around humans.
Secondly, unlike certain other skinks such as the Shingleback, it is easy for Northerns to mate and breed quickly. They have a gestation period of a little more than 3 months, but more importantly, the females will produce average litter sizes of between 15 and 20 baby-skinks, all of which become independent quite quickly.
Thirdly, Northerns are very hardy, forgiving creatures. They are’t very picky about the humidity (a good range is from 20 to 45%) and can tolerate temperature extremes a little bit better than the other skink species. They don’t fall prey to illness easily, and love to be around and handled by humans.
These reasons have made the Northern the skink of choice for many a pet lizard enthusiast. Because they are so popular, it is relatively easy to find a reputable, good breeder as well.
You can find a genuine, real Northern bluey for around $150 to $250 from basically anywhere inside North America. If you are located anywhere else, the price might be a little higher, but not by that much. Although, it needs to be stated that certain brighter-colored Northerns can fetch much higher prices.
The best place to find an authentic Northern are through reputable breeders, which you can find at:
If you are interested in owning one, join either group, ask a message on the board and you’ll quickly and easily find a good, reputable breeder.