Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

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The Freckled Goanna (Varanus tristis orientalis), also known as the Black Headed Goanna (although this usually refers to the other subspecies Varanus tristis), seen here basking in the sunshine at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

There are two distinct subspecies. The V. t. tristis (Black Headed Goanna) is the larger of the two species, with those found in Western Australia (Perth region) completely black, whilst those further north are lighter in colour. The V. t. orientalis are lighter in colour, lack the black head and are commonly known as the Freckled Goanna or Freckled Monitor.

A shy and fast moving goanna they can cover up to one kilometre per day while searching for its diet of large insects, lizards, nestling birds as well as mouse sized mammals and marsupials.

Common name
Black-headed Goanna, Mournful Monitor (the Latin word tristis, means “sad”), Black-tailed monitor, sometimes called the Freckled Monitor (Varanus tristis orientalis), Freckled Tree Monitor, or the racehorse monitor (due to its speed).

Check out our main Fauna Index section on the Black Headed Goanna.

  • Scientific classification
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Genus: Varanus
  • Subgenus: Odatria
  • Species:
    — V. tristis
    — V. t. orientalis
  • Binomial name:
    Varanus tristis
  • Varanus tristis orientalis