discover the copper skinks in cornwall park

Have you seen the skinks in Cornwall Park? Here at Cornwall Park we are lucky enough to be home to an extraordinary native lizard, the copper skink! Read on to find out more about this interesting species and its place in the park.

Native lizards

Aotearoa New Zealand is home to many different endemic reptiles, endemic meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. These reptiles include tuatara, as well as lizards like skinks and geckos. Almost all of these native lizards are what is known as ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young, rather than laying eggs. There are around 80 species of native skinks in Aotearoa New Zealand, though the number can change as scientists learn more and discover new species. There is also one species of introduced skink in New Zealand, called the rainbow or plague skink. New Zealand’s native lizards are very special, but unfortunately they are under threat from habitat loss and introduced predators.

Introduced rainbow/plague skinks sunbathing on some flax.

Copper skinks

Copper skinks (Oligosoma aeneum) are one of the endemic species of skink we have here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Copper skinks can be found around the North Island, even in gardens in urban areas of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Copper skinks are the smallest native lizard in New Zealand, with brown and copper colouration. They usually have lighter-coloured underbellies and striped markings around their mouths that help to distinguish them. However, they can easily be mistaken for another species that is found in urban gardens, the introduced rainbow skink. Rainbow skinks are thought to compete with native skinks where they occur in the same places.

Copper skink found by park staff out in the park.

In the park

We are lucky in Cornwall Park to be home to a population of copper skinks! These skinks inhabit outcroppings of rock and rock walls around the park. As they are ectotherms, meaning they need to get warmth from the sun, these rocks in the park provide a great place to sunbathe. Copper skinks are an important part of the park ecosystem, feeding on invertebrates, and likely being eaten by birds in the park. Though they are present in the park, you will be lucky to spot them! Copper skinks like to hide and can be very secretive, often running away as soon as they notice you. This can make them very difficult to find.

Rock outcropping in the park, A.K.A. skink habitat.

Want to learn more about our Cornwall Park ecosystem? Come and explore Huia Lodge Discovery Hub - open 10am - 4pm, 7 days a week.