NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids

Painted Turtle

distribution map

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Species Code: CHPI

What they look like: Painted turtles are brightly marked. They have a smooth shell. The painted turtle has a relatively flat upper shell with red and yellow markings on a black or greenish brown background.

Painted turtle

Where they live: Painted turtles are one of the most common turtles in North America and are found from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

This turtle lives in ponds, lakes, marshes, and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms.

Click the map for information about the habitat and range of the Painted Turtle in Washington.

What they eat: Painted turtles feed mainly on plants and small animals, such as fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. Turtles don't have teeth, but instead have horny ridges that are serrated and sharp on their upper and lower jaws.

Painted turtle eggs - by Venessa Kilburn


The breeding season lasts from late spring to early summer. Painted turtles are amniotes which requires females to nest on land. Females prefer soft, sandy soil with good exposure to the sun for their nest site. Nests are dug with the turtle's hind feet, usually within 200 meters of water. The nest is no deeper than 10 to 12 centimeters. The females will lay 4 to 15 oval, soft shelled eggs, in a flask-shaped hole in the ground.

Painted turtle eggs - by Venessa Kilburn


Raccoons, otters, mink, foxes, and other medium-sized animals will prey on turtles and their eggs. Painted turtles keep a watch out for predators and seek refuge in the water at the first sign of danger. For protection, they can quickly retract their head and legs into their hard shell.

Painted turtles bask in groups on logs, fallen trees, and other objects near water (see photo below). The sun exposure helps rid them of parasites.

Did you know?

  • Turtles shed their shell as they're growing; this skin resembles a burnt leaf.
  • Painted turtles can swim underwater.
  • A group of turtles is called a 'a bale of turtles'.

Painted turtle - USFWS
Western Painted Turtle
(photo by Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

More Information:

Painted Turtle - Animal Diversity Web

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Vanessa Kilburn; USFWS

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