Slow worm

Slow worm - Wildlife closeups
Often confused for a snake, the slow worm is in fact a legless lizard.

The main difference between slow worms and snakes is that slow worms have eyelids. They have a short, partially forked tongue which, unlike snakes, they can't stick out of a closed mouth.

An adult Slow Worm is typically about 30cm in length, with a uniform cylindrical body – i.e. without the narrowing behind the head that gives snakes their characteristic ‘neck’. Unlike a snake, the Slow Worm has visible eyelids that blink regularly and smooth, shiny scales that display a metallic appearance. It is the extreme smoothness of the scales that results in the ‘highly polished’ appearance. The overall body colour is a shiny grey-brown, usually with thin longitudinal stripes of a darker colour. The exact appearance may vary from one individual to another but older males usually sport a series of small spots, blue in colour.

To find some of the best locations for finding slow worms type 'Slow Worm' into the search engine on this website.

The Slow Worm has a widespread distribution across Europe and Britain (apart from Ireland), but within Britain it is most commonly reported in the southern counties. In actual fact my mother has a whole family of them living in her compost - which is where this photo was taken! They are also commonly found in woodlands, heath, and wasteland and hides under stones, logs, grass cuttings, plywood, corrugated iron or slate.

Slow worms emerge from hibernation between late March and April.

When a bird attempts to eat them they 'freeze'. If the bird starts pecking they will stay completely still, shedding their tail which wriggles about for up to 15 minutes. The bird then generally picks up the tail and flies away, leaving the tail-less reptile alive. The tail regenerates in a matter of weeks into a short pointed stub.

Slow worms are very good for the garden as they eat pests like slugs.
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