The Little Geckos in Houses (butiki)

Geckos photographed at the Rizal ReCreation Center. Clockwise from top left they are a Flat-tailed House Gecko, Mourning Gecko, Common House Gecko, and Four-clawed Gecko
Four different geckos photographed at the Rizal ReCreation Center. Clockwise from top left are Flat-tailed House Gecko, Mourning Gecko, Common House Gecko, and Four-clawed Gecko

If you leave a light on and watch the moths, pretty soon some geckos, or “butiki”, will end up creeping up near the light to snatch some of the moths flying around it. These gobbling geckos help control insects in the farm.

Geckos are great friends with which to share our homes and forests. Despite some silly rumors, geckos are completely harmless to people – they’re only dangerous to those insect guests that we sometimes wish would stay outside! In our area we have many different kinds of geckos. I’m going to focus on the four small ones, the little butiki, that you’ll see on the walls of buildings in Lilok and other homes. (I already talked about the big one, the tuko, in an earlier post.)

Four-clawed Gecko

Four-clawed Gecko - Gehyra mutilata stump-toed gecko philippines
Four-clawed Gecko in Batangas (© Tony Gerard)

The Four-clawed Gecko, also known as the Stump-toed Gecko, is the most common gecko at Lilok Farm. You can see them running around the dining hall, sometimes on the walls and sometimes on the ground.

Some Four-clawed Geckos at Lilok Farm

Four-clawed Geckos are sometimes light and sometimes dark, sometimes they have dark spots and sometimes not, but you can recognize them by the little line of white dots that goes through the eye, the thick tail, and the stubby toes, the 5th one of which has no claw. They have very soft skin, so they can be injured if you try to grab them.

Common House Gecko

Common House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus spiny-tailed house gecko laguna philippines near manila
Common House Gecko at the Rizal ReCreation Center

Common House Geckos, also known as Spiny-tailed House Geckos, are the most often seen gecko in Manila and other big cities. You can recognize a Common House Gecko by the round tail with little spines down the sides.

Geckos sometimes drop their tail when they get attacked. Their hope is that the enemy is distracted by the tail and will just eat that, while the lizard will live to see another day. Over time the tail will grow back. However, when the tail grows back it will be a different color than the original and won’t have any spines.

After a gecko loses its tail it can’t use that technique again to get away from predators, and it takes a lot of energy for it to grow it’s tail back over time. You should always avoid bothering lizards or grabbing them in any way that might cause them to lose their tail.

Flat-tailed House Gecko

flat-tailed house gecko Hemidactylus platyurus batangas tony gerard philippines
Flat-tailed House Gecko in Batangas (© Tony Gerard)

Flat-tailed House Geckos are a close relative of the Common House Gecko, but instead of a round tail with spines, they have a flat tail with little fringes on the side. I don’t see Flat-tailed House Geckos as often in the Philippines as I do the first two species, but they are definitely around and if you pay attention you will notice them too.

Mourning Gecko

Mourning Gecko in Singapore – notice the regrown tail ( © CheongWeei GanCC BY-NC)

I haven’t found Mourning Geckos in Lilok Farm, but they are at the Rizal Recreation Center and other places in the Philippines so they may be at Lilok Farm as well. You can identify a Mourning Gecko by the wavy pattern on its back and the slightly different shape of its head.

The unique thing about the Mourning Gecko is that they engage in parthenogenesis, meaning that the females lay eggs without needing any male! So all the Mourning Geckos you see are females, just like the Brahminy Blind Snakes we talked about in a previous post.

Where do these geckos live?

They are found in cities, parks, homes, and forests, any place with walls or trees that they can climb.

What do they eat?

They eat small insects and spiders.

Are they dangerous?

None of the little geckos you see in your home are dangerous.

Are they in danger?

All four of these species are widespread and common.

What is their scientific name and classification?

The scientific name of the Common House Gecko is Hemidactylus frenatus, the Flat-tailed House Gecko is Hemidactylus platyurus, the Four-clawed Gecko is Gehyra mutilata and the Mourning Gecko is Lepidodactylus lugubris. They are all members of the gecko family Gekkonidae. Geckos are well-known for their large eyes, soft skin, and the ability of many members to climb walls with their special toepads.

Examples of the little geckos – can you tell which is which?

  • Four-clawed Gecko: 3, 7, 12
  • Common House Gecko: 6, 8, 11
  • Flat-tailed House Gecko: 1, 5, 10
  • Mourning Gecko: 2, 4, 9

Which of these geckos have you seen in your home? What have you seen them eat? Have you ever seen one get eaten by something else?

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