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Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Boyd'sForest Dragon
Photo: C & D Frith    
Australian Tropical
Reptiles & Frogs
Boyd’s Forest Dragon (Gonocephalus boydii)


  • The forest dragon is very distinctive with large pointed scales on a crest behind the head, pinkish flat-topped conical scales on the cheeks and a deep mustard yellow pouch beneath the jaw line.
  • Despite its ornate structures and bright colouration it is cryptic in its tropical rainforest environment where it camouflages well.


  • The forest dragon is restricted in area from just south of Cooktown (located north of Cairns), and the Atherton Tableland region and south to Paluma near Townsville.
  • It spends most of its time in trees and due to its camouflage it is often very hard to see and thus tends to go unnoticed. However they can more easily be spotted basking in the sun on the sides of roads and walking tracks where it may be lying on the ground to absorb some of the heat radiating form the surface.
  • Forest dragons are territorial with the larger male territory usually containing one or more small female territories. Sometimes lizards have one or two favourite trees within their territory to which they will regularly return. (Source: Department of Environment)
  • Sunlight is not always available in the rainforest; the thick canopy blocking most of it. Hence several lizard species have abandoned basking in favour of a lifestyle known as thermoconforming. This is where the lizard's body temperature simply conforms to that of the air around it. (Source: Department of Environment)


  • The forest dragon grows to a length of about 15cm but its tail adds much to the overall length.

Viewing Opportunities:

  • They can be seen on the trunks of rainforest trees during your walk around Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine.
  • They are also seen at the Malanda Falls Environmental Park on the trees behind the picnic shelter.

Extra Information:

  • A Boyd's forest dragon is only found in the rainforests of north eastern Queensland. The male has a home range of about 1000 square metres. Female ranges are slightly smaller. Home ranges of the same sexes do not overlap but larger male territories often contain one or more female territories. Movements within the territories vary with season with dragons travelling 100m or more during summer days but relatively little in winter.

  • These lizards spend much of their time perching on the side of tree trunks just one or two metres from the ground waiting to ambush prey. They sometimes have favourite trees to which they will regularly return. They eat beetles, spiders, crickets and lots of ants. They also love earthworms. Although they may occasionally eat rainforest fruits, this seems to be rare.

  • The male is larger than the female and can be distinguished by its larger, blockier head. Both sexes have a large yellow dewlap below their chins which they can erect using a bone called the hyoid. The dewlap is used for displaying to each other and to scare off predators.

  • The breeding season is late spring and early summer. At this time female dragons in the cooler uplands often move in search of open sunny spots, such as roads. They tend to sit on  the roads, presumably using the  warmth to help speed development  of the eggs (a risky. habit ). Despite their fairly large size, forest dragons  produce relatively small clutches, laying only one to six eggs at a time  in a shallow hole. Unfortunately  upland dragons often lay them in  warmer areas at the sides of roads where they are vulnerable to vehicles. Lowland dragons lay on  the forest floor.

  • The lizards mature at about 1-3 years of age. They may live for about five or ten years but this is uncertain.

  • In general the forest dragon relies on its superb camouflage to escape predators. It will usually stay very still, only moving when it is sure it has been spotted. Then it slowly folds in its anus and legs and slides around the back of the tree, keeping the trunk between itself and its observer.

  • The best way to spot a forest dragon is to carefully scan the sides of the trees at about head height, while slowly walking through the rainforest. Examine any large bump – it may well turn out to be a lizard.

  • For more information on these lovely animals look at Nature Australia Vol 25 No 8  Autumn 1997 for an excellent article entitled Forest Dragons by Boyd’s specialist Geordie Torr
    This extra information was supplied courtesy of  The Queensland Environmental Protection Agency.


Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tableland
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
PH & Fax: 07 4095 3754 International: 61 7 4095 3754

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