Red-Headed Brown Anole

Photo by Karen Cusick.

They say redheads have more fun, but is that true in the brown anole world? We’ve had a lot of discussion of A. sagrei that are overall orangey in color, but less about the coppertop look that seems to pop up in populations far and wide. We certainly see it on some of small Bahamian islands, but not others. The photo above is from Florida, courtesy of Karen Cusick’s Daffodil’s Photo BlogWho else has seen the redheads, and where? And any idea of their significance?

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

61 thoughts on “Red-Headed Brown Anole

  1. We often see red-headed A. sagrei on Little Cayman. My impression is that redheads are especially common among youngsters (i.e. very small individuals).

  2. I have seen them the last two summers in St. Augustine, Florida when doing research. They are especially prevalent in a newly developed community called Nocatee. I’ve seen both males and females, some of which exhibit the red color along their whole body and tail. I also have a few in the lab that were collected.

  3. This photo of an anole hatchling was taken (via cell phone, hence the poor quality) by a member of the public in the departure lounge at the Bermuda international airport. Could it be a brown anole?

  4. We have noticed a small number of the “coppertops” here in Bradenton, FL. They tend to be paler and have much less obvious patterning. The red in this picture is not as pronounced as others we’ve seen.

  5. These redheads occur in A.lineatopus on Jamaica too.I don’t have a picture but they look exactly the anoles that Mindy posted above, and have all been juveniles..I suspect mostly male (all the ones I have managed to catch have been).I am beginning to wonder if this red head is just a means for adult males to distinguish between females and juvenile males and whether or not the red color in fact fades as the animal matures.But then again the first picture in the comments is the largest male I have ever seen with a red head, I have never seen anything like that in larges male in either sagrei or lineatopus on Jamaica and the anole dosen’t look like a juvenile to me.
    Maybe its just that a few sagrei keep the red cap into adulthood.

  6. Just saw one of these today on my patio in Homestead, FL, south of Miami. Didn’t have my phone to take a picture. It was the first one we’ve ever seen. So glad I found this site to tell me what it was.

  7. I live in Naples Fl. I must have 50 to 75 Anoles living on my “landscaped” lanai.
    I started feeding them about three years ago just a few meal worms at a time.
    Now I’m “attacted” when I go out there, they come out from everywhere looking for their daily feeding.
    Usually we go out for our adult beverage in the late afternoon and are “attacted” by starving lizards. Some of the brave ones will climb on your lap and eat out of your hand, but most stay their distance and wait for a handout.
    We are up to 500 meal worm every 10 days. I have had to go to the small meal worm for the babies.
    When feeding lizards in the highlight of your day you’re in trouble!
    The grand kids think it’s better than Disney.

    About the red heads…..I have several and don’t know why, none of the adults have red heads that I have noticed. I did notice one thing though. It seem when the males reach the end of their days they turn jet black, become docile, don’t eat and some shed their skin.
    Enjoy the little guys while you have them..

  8. Just saw one on our patio in Port St Lucie, Florida. Have seen occasionally before. Don’t know if it makes any difference, but we live near, not on, the St. Lucie River

  9. In Naples, FL here and there are two red-headed brown anoles living on my front patio. I just saw a large male brown anole near them and he did not have a red head, neither does the little brown anole (more tan than the others) who decided to move into my house and live between the plant in my window and the dog’s wicker toy box.

    We used to have more but the landscapers ripped out all our birds of paradise and other shrubbery (“to control bugs” they said. >.<) and many of the other anoles and frogs disappeared. Thankfully the cuban tree frogs seemed to have gone with them…

  10. I just spotted 3 of them on my patio in Corpus Christi, Texas. I’ve seen more green anoles and brown anoles than I could ever keep track of in my nearly 10 years here, but this is the first time I’ve noticed these red-headed guys. Two of them were male, but my dog chased away the other before I could see if that one was male or female. They just looked like the usual brown anoles, but with very noticeable bright orange heads and necks. Very interesting.

    1. On Little Cayman, we have both red-headed A. sagrei and brown-headed. As far as I can tell, there is no ecological or territorial distinction.

  11. I live in the Clermont, FL area near Disney World. We have a very healthy population of brown anoles. As well as green anoles. A lot of our brown anoles are red heads. ?? Very cool looking sub spices of all ages and both sexes.

  12. I have a complete brown anole colony living right outside my front window in a Bleeding Heart bush. The amazing thing is that the dominant male is 100 percent red. It’s baby’s are ether red heads and we have a couple that are also completely red. We are very attached and have named the dominant adult male, Red. We look for Red everyday and he is always in just a couple of spots watching over his territory. He defends it if another adult male comes anywhere near it. We also try to protect him from the Curley Tail lizards that eat Brown Anoles. Red is getting older now and is turning a darker shade of red. Ive researched the internet and can’t find anything on why we are so blessed to have Red. I have no idea what caused him to be Red. Our visitors love to come over to see the Red. The love him as much as we do.

    1. Where do you live that you’re seeing the completely red anoles. I’ve seen an occasional redhead in Port St. Lucie, FL, as well as the occasional curly tail. Not as many as in West Palm Beach tho

  13. We have brown anoles at my office in Valdosta GA (south central GA 18 miles north of the GA/FLA border). Some of them are red-headed.

  14. When I moved to Tampa, FL I saw them all the time, wasn’t sure they were brown anoles at first because most of the pictures are of “normal” brown anoles, even though these seem more common here.

  15. I see lots of redhead females around here in Bradenton but no males yet. Here’s a picture of a redhead beauty that hangs around my back porch.

  16. I was observing the dozens of lizards outside my back window when I noticed a couple of the smaller lizards resembled the bigger ones. The bigger ones are standard brown anoles. However the smaller variety with heads that are slightly more angular than the bigger brown anoles also sport a copper top, unlike their bigger neighbor’s. I couldn’t seem to identify if this was another variant in the brown anole until I found your site. I also noticed the copper tops were much quicker than the other lizards and pounced quickly on prey from 2-3 feet away and then quickly return to their vantage point. The plain brown anoles tend to creep closer to their prey before catching it and that is why I thought they must be separate varieties because of the distinctly different behavior in the same yard.
    They are all very enjoyable to watch. I live in Jacksonville, Florida in a new home built in an older neighborhood with mostly older, established homes around me and towering trees. The lizards like the fence next to the clearing of my backyard where I keep a garden.

  17. I may be a 14 year old girl, but I have a passion for these tiny lizards. I often catch and release these little guys on a daily basis and have gotten very good at it. It seems a large portion of the lizards I find are coppertops like these and they are just like every other lizard. It seems there is no difference. But what I have noticed is that very few adult males that I’ve spotted have coppertops and typically their red is more of a lighter orange than on young males or females. I live in south Florida and these things are everywhere. I’m thinking this might be some kind of really weird and common color morph? Red color Morph brown anoles exist, so maybe the coppertops are somehow related?

  18. Here in houston tx I’ve noticed some all red adults as well as light colored males with red heads and tails around my yard. Its seems only lightly colored individuals show red colors.

  19. I just saw one in Sarasota, this afternoon. At the parking lot garden at Publix on Bee Ridge. So naturally, I had to find out more about the little guy!

  20. I saw one for the first time with red nearly everywhere EXCEPT the head. Spotted in Bradenton, FL.

  21. I have red anoles and red headed tan anoles in my gardens in Ormond Beach, FL near Daytona. My red heads are tan/buff all over. July 2016. Of course I also have the brown anoles and our beautiful green ones also.

  22. We live in a suburb of New Orleans and found this redhead on our patio this week. First time we’ve ever seen one. The patio is inhabited by both brown and green anoles.

  23. I just saw my first red headed A. Sagrei here in Holly Hill, Florida. I tried like mad to get a picture while it was still on a Brazilian pepper bonsai but it was maddeningly elusive. When it tried to make a break for it into some underbrush I tried to catch it but it was too fast- and I’ve been catching these regularly since I was a small child.

    It had a head that was much more red than any of the photos I’ve seen. It was a juvenile, about half the size of an adult so I’d say it was born early this year. The back markings were a diamond pattern that many of the local populations seems to have. I’ll keep an eye out and try to get a picture.

  24. We just moved to Florida a few months ago. Have seen LOADS ef varying ages of brown anole, but it was only in the past week i’ve seen the red-headed brown anole. Of course I had to google them to see what they are.

    They seem to hang around one specific area (so far) whereas the others seem to be everywhere.

    Being from a northern state, I am thoroughly enjoying the lizards.

  25. Saw one at my house here in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Never seen them before. It had 2 black linear lines down each side of it’s spine. I have big males without the lines and reddish head. Are they the same? He’s huge with an orange dewlap.

  26. I noticed these striking lizards for the first time this year. I’ve only ever seen solid brown or green anoles before. I live in Edinburg, TX.

  27. I saw my first lovely little redhead lizard hanging out with a largish brown anole here in Ormond Beach, FL. The two of them were living on one of my hose caddies in my side yard. Landscapers overturned that caddy and the lizards went missing. About a week later, “Rusty” (as I call the redhead) turned up inside my pool enclosure. Not too long after that, the big male brown anole also came in. He comes and goes, but she stays in. I’m happy to see there can be more of these–I think she’s quickly becoming my favorite. I just wish I hadn’t lost all my green anoles.

  28. We have plenty of the redheads here in South Houston. When the brown anoles showed up a few years ago, our green anole population nose dived and our small European geckos disapperared. I still sometimes find a skink. I don’t know if their populations were impacted.

  29. This beautiful female redhead hangs around my back patio door and on the screen a lot. Her mate hangs around watching her much of the time. He is solid colored, so we’ll see what happens genetically. I hope the red head gene is dominant, so the feature will carry forward in this family. I like the stripe too. Beautiful creature.

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