Are you a bearded dragon owner who wants to learn all they can about their pet?
Have you noticed your bearded dragon bobbing its head a lot?
This is standard behavior for bearded dragons, and as a good pet owner, you’ll want to know what this and other behaviors mean for your reptile.
After seeing this odd-looking behavior, you wonder:
Why is my bearded dragon bobbing its head?
Bearded dragons bob their heads for many common reasons, including protecting territory, threatening another animal, mating, submission, and acknowledging other bearded dragons. Knowing the difference between each type of head-bobbing is critical for understanding if you need to do something.
Read on for more details on head-bobbing and if you need to do anything.
5 Reasons Why A Bearded Dragon Bobs His Head
In this section, we look at the five most common reasons why bearded dragons bob their heads.
They may seem contradictory to each other, but this is why you need to read carefully and learn about the signs for each type of head-bobbing.
Each of these reasons explains head-bobbing as some form of communication.
As with most reptiles, the bearded dragon doesn’t communicate by sound or sign, but by body language.
Head-bobbing is one of the most important ways they communicate.
The first and most common reason for head-bobbing is to defend territory.
In their natural habitats of the Australian deserts, the bearded dragons compete for precious resources.
As such, this has helped them evolve territorial instincts over many generations.
If a bearded dragon decides to challenge another, either for gaining or protecting territory, you may see a fast head-bobbing up or down.
This is usually seen in male bearded dragons as they encounter another male or female.
In this case of two males, the other may accept the challenge by returning the fast head-bob.
In this case, the two would fight to see which would become the dominant and which would become the submissive.
If the other bearded dragon instead does a slow-bob and arm-wave, the second beardy is submitting to the other.
This is much less common with female bearded dragons but does sometimes occur when two females of the same size encounter one another for territory.
This head-bobbing in captivity may mean you’re keeping two beardies in the same tank with not enough space.
Keep them in individual tanks if possible, or at the very least, give them a larger tank (>100 gallons).
Never keep two males in the same tank.
#2 Threatening Another Animal
In rare cases, you may see a male bearded dragon do this head-bobbing to another animal (usually another lizard) in the area.
This reason is very similar to the first.
Bearded dragons live best on their own, but if you want to cohabitate, check out what a bearded dragon can live with.
When male bearded dragons go into their mating season, which is roughly one month after brumation, they need to communicate to female beardies they’re ready to mate.
The most common form this takes is a quick and jerky head-bob.
When you see this happening while the male is around a female, it means the male is ready for mating.
The female then typically responds with a slow arm-wave to show she’s accepting his offer.
Then the two reptiles mate.
This jerky head-bobbing also gives a sign to other males in the area how this male has pegged the female as his own for now, and everyone else should back off.
Though head-bobbing is often associated with challenging for territory, if the head-bobbing is very slow and deliberate, it is possibly a sign of submission.
When a larger male approaches a smaller and challenges with a fast-bob, it would be expected the submissive sign back with a slow-bob and arm-wave to avoid a fight it can’t win.
This slow-bob also occurs occasionally with submissive female encounters and when females accept a mating invitation.
#5 Acknowledging Other Bearded Dragons
For some reason, bearded dragons will still slow-bob to each other for no discernible reason.
The best experts can speculate the beardies are acknowledging each other’s presence in the area.
It’s sort of like saying, “Hi!”
The debate remains whether this greeting is along one of two main lines:
- “Hi there, fellow bearded dragon!”
- “Hello. I see you, and I’m watching you.”
Behavior Seen With Head-Bobbing
A helpful hint, besides the speed of the head-bobbing, is the behaviors along with it.
These behaviors are often tell-tale signs as to which type of head-bobbing is happening.
When a bearded dragon lifts its arm and waves one of them, this dragon is submitting to the larger beardy’s dominance.
During mating season, this arm-waving is seen by females being propositioned by a male.
Otherwise, arm-waving means the reptile gives dominance to the challenging male.
Learn more about other reasons why bearded dragons wave in our other post.
When you see beard-puffing, this is often a sign of challenge among bearded dragons, especially males.
Beard-puffing can also be a defensive mechanism against larger predators, but when paired with head-bobbing, it’s more of a challenge.
Chin Turning Black
Chin skin turning the color black is a sign of stress.
This, coupled with head-bobbing, means a challenge is coming, but the bearded dragon is stressed out by this challenge.
We hope you will find our information on why bearded dragon bob their heads helpful.
If you see this in captivity, it’s nothing to worry about at all unless you cohabitate multiple bearded dragons.
Then, there may be a fight.
For those of you who enjoy breeding bearded dragons, head-bobbing is something you want to see as it’s a sign of mating in both male and female bearded dragons.