Reptiles are an animal group that we usually associate with hot, dry, sun drenched countries. Despite our cooler climate, Britain can still boast six native representatives including three lizard and three snake species. As cold blooded creatures, reptiles gain energy by basking in the sun on a warm absorbent surface or a quiet secluded sunny spot at the edge of a path or clearing.
What do reptiles eat?
They have a range of food sources, depending on their size and hunting style. Lizards feed on smaller prey such as insects whilst snakes like the adder hunt stealthily for rodents, birds and amphibians.
How do reptiles reproduce?
Most reptiles reproduce by laying eggs, which are protected and incubated whilst the young develop. They are then independent several hours or days after birth. The sand lizard, one of our rarest reptiles, lays its eggs in warm sandy soil where the heat from the ground acts as an incubator. Some British reptiles like the common lizard give birth to live young; our climate is not reliably warm enough for the young to develop in eggs outside of the adult body.
What will attract reptiles to my garden?
Variety is often the key to creating wildlife habitats in your garden and it is no different when attempting to provide for reptiles. Rare species like the sand lizard and smooth snake are restricted to certain sandy heathland habitats and are unlikely to be found outside of these locations. Common lizards, slow worms and grass snakes are all conceivable garden visitors given the correct conditions for hunting, feeding and sun basking.
Areas of long grass give a concealed hunting arena where snakes can ambush their prey. Corrugated tin or roofing felt sheets laid out in a sunny spot provide a great basking location as these materials absorb heat from the sun and provide a warm resting point on or under for reptiles.
- There are more than 8000 species of reptile, 6 of which occur naturally in Britain. They are a diverse group of species, including lizards, snakes, tortoises, turtles and crocodiles, many of which have exceptionally long life spans: some tortoises live for over 150 years.
- Reptiles can be described as cold blooded which simply means that they rely on outside influences such as the sun to warm themselves and regulate their body temperatures
How to help reptiles and amphibians in your garden