That afternoon sunlight was pretty harsh. I was searching for some insects in the undergrowth of this tall tree. That is when I spotted this Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor). It was in my garden hunting for food. This male was in non-breading colors. He was the dominant male in the garden till last 6 months. Recently he disappeared and I am only seeing few smaller lizards indicating that he has succumbed to some of my resident predators (Cats or Shikra (Accipeter badius)). That day I was using my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV along with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM fitted with Canon EF 1.4x II Extender.
The Oriental Garden Lizard, Eastern Garden Lizard or Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) is an agamid lizard found widely distributed in Asia. It has also been introduced in many other parts of the world. It is an insectivore and the male gets a bright red throat in the breeding season leading to a common incorrect name of “Bloodsucker”. The ground-color is generally a light brownish olive, but the lizard can change it to bright red, to black, and to a mixture of both. This change is sometimes confined to the head, at other times diffused over the whole body and tail. A common state in which it may be seen is, seated on a hedge or bush, with the tail and limbs black, head and neck yellow picked out with red, and the rest of the body red. Changeable colors are seen only on the male during the breeding-season, which falls in the months of May and June.
The native range of the species includes SE Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Western Malaysia, Maldives, Vietnam, Pulo Condore Island, South China, Indonesia, Mauritius. It has been introduced to Oman, Singapore, and United States. The lizards were introduced to Singapore from Malaysia and Thailand in the 1980s. In Singapore, they are a threat to the native Green-Crested Lizard. The Oriental Garden Lizard is relatively common and found in a wide range of habitats. They appear to adapt well to humans and are thus not endangered.
During the breeding season, the male’s head and shoulders turns bright orange to crimson and his throat black. Males also turn red-headed after a successful battle with rivals. Thus their other gruesome name of “Bloodsucker Lizard” although they don’t actually suck anybody’s blood. Both males and females have a crest from the head to nearly the tail, hence their other common name “Crested Tree Lizard”. Oriental Garden Lizards are related to iguanas (which are found only in the New World). Unlike other lizards, they do not drop their tails (autotomy), and their tails can be very long, stiff and pointy. Like other reptiles, they shed their skins. Like chameleons, Oriental Garden Lizards can move each of their eyes in different directions.
Oriental Garden Lizards eat mainly insects and small vertebrates, including rodents and other lizards. Although they have teeth, these are designed for gripping prey and not tearing it up. So prey is swallowed whole, after it is stunned by shaking it about. Sometimes, young inexperienced Oriental Garden Lizards may choke on prey which are too large. Occasionally Oriental Garden Lizards also consume vegetable matter. They are commonly found among the undergrowth in open habitats including highly urban areas. Males become highly territorial during breeding season. They discourage intruding males by brightening their red heads and doing “push-ups”. Each tries to attract a female by inflating his throat and drawing attention to his handsomely colored head. About 10—20 eggs are laid, buried in moist soil. The eggs are long, spindle-shaped and covered with a leathery skin. They hatch in about 6–7 weeks. They are able to breed at about 1 year old.