Nonnatives - African Redhead Agama

African Redhead Agama - Agama agama


Florida's Nonnative Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1976

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 2 counties  At least 10 years, 3 counties  Less than 10 years, 1 county  Not reported breeding

Statewide trend: Expanding

African Redhead Agama
Photograph by Bill Love/Blue Chameleon Ventures © 2003

Threats to natives: Unknown, but may prey upon smaller vertebrates, such as other lizards.

Species Account: This African species contains 10 different subspecies, which may vary in color among geographic regions and populations. Present populations in Dade, Charlotte, and Seminole counties are a West African subspecies (africana), but the Broward Co. populations may consist of some individuals of East African subspecies (Enge et al. 2004b). Nonstressed breeding males of the West African subspecies have brilliant orange heads, an indigo blue or black body and legs, and a tail that is bluish white at the base and has an orange middle segment and black tail tip. Nonbreeding or stressed males are paler and may lack orange on the head. Females and juveniles have yellow or earthen tones on their backs with some barring, and breeding females may have an orangish or bluish blush on their heads. Males may reach 30 cm (12 in) long, but females are smaller. These active, agile, and wary lizards often bask facing the sun, and sun-warmed lizards are more brightly colored than cooler ones (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). A population observed in the Redland area of Dade County in 2002 used low rock walls around a schoolyard and a nearby neighborhood (Enge et al. 2004b). Wilson and Porras (1983) first reported an established population in Dade County, but they were almost certain that it had been extirpated during extensive demolition in the area. In Africa, agamas mostly feeds on ants, grasshoppers, and beetles (James and Porter 1979), but in some areas or during the dry season, they will feed on flowers, grass, dead leaves, and human food (e.g., candy, bread crumbs, cake, pieces of carrot (Romer 1953, Chapman and Chapman 1964, Harris 1964, Cloudsley-Thompson 1981).  Large individuals are cannibalistic and may eat their own young (Harris 1964, Cloudsley-Thompson 1981).

Habitats: Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns

County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes
BROWARD 1990s Less than 10 years Two suburban areas near reptile dealerships in Hollywood (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999)
CHARLOTTE 1986 At least 10 years Punta Gorda (Enge et al. 2004b; Krysko et al., in press)
DADE 1976 At least 10 years An extirpated population in Miami (Wilson and Porras 1983); an extant population in the Redland area near Homestead since the early 1990s (Enge et al. 2004b; Krysko et al., in press)
SEMINOLE 2000 Less than 10 years Sanford (Enge et al. 2004b)
MONROE 2003 Not reported breeding Single male observed (Enge et al. 2004b)
MARTIN 2003 Less than 10 years Palm City (Enge et al. 2004b)


Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Chapman, B. M,. and R. F. Chapman. 1964. Observations on the biology of the lizard Agama agama in Ghana. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 143:121-132.

Clogusley-Thompson, J. L. 1981. Bionomics of the rainbow lizard Agama agama (L.) in eastern Nigeria during the dry season. Journal of Arid Environments 4:235-245.

Enge, K. M., K. L. Krysko, and B. L. Talley. 2004b. Distribution and ecology of the introduced African rainbow lizard, Agama agama africana (Sauria: Agamidae), in Florida. Florida Scientist 67:303-310.

Harris, V. A. 1964. The life of the rainbow lizard. Hutchinson Tropical Monographs. 174pp.

James, F. C, and W. P. Porter. 1979. Behavior-microclimate relationships in the African rainbow lizard, Agama agama. Copeia 1979:585-593.

Krysko, K. L., K. M. Enge, J. H. Townsend, E. M. Langan, S. A. Johnson, and T. S. Campell. In Press. New county records of amphibians and reptiles from Florida. Herpetological Review.

Romer, J. D. 1953. Reptiles and amphibians collected in the Port Harcourt area of Nigeria. Copeia 1953:121-123.

Wilson, L. D., and L. Porras. 1983. The ecological impact of man on the south Florida herpetofauna. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Special Publication No. 9. 89pp.

Links to more information

University of Michigan species account

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