Recognized Subspecies in VA: None
Size: 8.5 - 13 inches
Range: Piedmont and Coastal Plain; rare in parts of the Blue Ridge and the Eastern Shore
Status: Least Concern
The Broadhead Skink is the largest Skink in Virginia. This species is a good example of how competition with other species can create different niches in different locations. For example, in Virginia, Broadheads are almost exclusively found in old-growth oak and cypress forest. Now when you get into South Carolina, this species is a lot more abundant and can be found in different forest types, such as pines. This is likely due to South Carolina’s climate being more advantageous for the larger species while in Virginia it is relegated to a smaller habitat selection due to being outcompeted by Common Five-lined Skinks or even Southeastern Five-lined Skinks. Even the Broadheads in NOVA seem to be smaller, yet just as stocky, than their southern counterparts.
Broadheads behave somewhat different than their cousins. They are capable of taking down larger food sources (like smaller lizards). I have seen this species shake down wasp nest and eat the larvae out. The adult wasps seem not to really have a solution for these predators. Broadheads hunt in the trees, and are more arboreal than their cousins.
The name “Broadhead” comes from the resemblance of the breeding males’ head to that of an arrowhead, particularly a “broadhead”. In recent years, we have seen a shift in naming to the “Broad-headed Skink”, but I feel this negates the unique and interesting origins of this name, so we have elected to hang-on to the old name for now.
Similar Species: All sexes and ages resemble the Common Five-lined Skink and the Southeastern Five-lined Skink with adult size being a huge factor. Both Five-lined species have 2 postlabials, and never more than 5 lines. Southeastern Five-lined Skinks have 4-5 scale rows between the mid-dorsal and lateral lines. For a more in-depth look into these species, see the button below.
Maps and External Sources
Herping Virginia encourages all naturalists to practice ethical, safe, and sustainable herping. The use of proper herping methods and techniques is beneficial to both wildlife and herpers. Visit the links below for more information.