Bearded dragon head bobbing is one of the unique behaviors that bearded dragon owners may not understand.
To make this process easier for you, we have put this handy guide together on the reasons your bearded dragon bobs its head and what to do about it. Keep reading this guide to stay informed.
What is Head Bobbing in Bearded Dragons?
Head bobbing is when a beardie displays the behavior of moving the head up and down quickly. It’s more common in males than in females, where it shows dominance, particularly during breeding. Other reasons why bearded dragons bob their heads include to show aggression, threatening other animals, mating submission, and acknowledging others. For most of the time, head bobbing is nothing to be concerned about.
Keep reading to learn more about why bearded dragons bob their head.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?
1. Defends Their Territory
One of the most common reasons why bearded dragon bobs head is to defend its territory. Beardies are solitary lizards and will prefer to stay alone. In their natural habitat, the behavior is seen as they compete for precious resources like basking areas, food, and mates.
This behavior is also typical in captivity when they live with other beardies to try and establish dominance. This can mainly be seen in two male bearded dragons challenging each other through the fast head-bob.
If this is the case, the two may fight to see who becomes dominant. The dominant beardie influences other dragons and reminds them of their rank in space.
Note that this may be seen in two female bearded dragons of the same size trying to fight for resources.
If bearded dragon head bobbing is as a result of feeling territorial, it may mean the space is not enough. Try getting a larger tank or keep each in a separate tanks (especially two males).
2. During Mating To Entice the Female
Sometimes head bobbing may be seen during the mating season when the male bearded dragon entices the female dragon through a vigorous head bobbing display.
Mating process is likely to take place roughly one month after brumation when the males communicate to their mates that they are ready to mate.
Generally, male beardie will also fight with other males to win a female and usually appear extraordinarily aggressive and territorial as if informing other male beardies to stay away.
The female beardie may show slight head bobbing to show approval, which is slower and more subtle. It demonstrates her desire and willingness to submit to the advances of the male.
Unlike males, female bearded dragons are less aggressive during this season. The couple mate, and then everything goes back to normal.
3. Threatening another Animal
In rare cases, male bearded dragons bob their heads when they see another animal or lizard around. It’s similar to being territorial, but it’s also their way to appear menacing, so they puff up.
If you intend to keep two bearded dragons, it’s best to get two separate habitats, especially if both are males. Also, you want to separate the male beardie from the female to let them prove their alpha position.
4. Head Nodding At Other Household Pets
Sometimes the bearded dragon may not get along well with other pets like cats, dogs, and birds. It’s primarily common if they live in his view.
If you notice head bobbing when you bring home a new pet, this may be the reason. Well, your bearded dragon may get used to this with time and realize it won’t do them any harm.
If the behavior persists whenever the pets are around, you may need to relocate beardie’s enclosure to a different area where the view is limited.
If the bearded dragon stays in a scary new environment, it may keep them stressed and lead to health problems. It’s therefore essential to correct it before it makes them sick.
Sometimes head bobbing may start out of nowhere when the pets are in the vicinity.
It happens when the pet is becoming a threat to the dragon’s territory. Other times, beardies node to other pets during the breeding season.
Although head bobbing is mainly associated with challenging for territory and mating ritual, it may also be a sign of submission, especially when it’s slower and deliberate.
For instance, juveniles and females may slow bob and arm wave to show they don’t want to fight. Also during mating season, when a female bearded dragons bob their head it means it accepts male advances.
6. Bearded Dragon Bobbing At Clothing and Toys
A beardie may sometimes mistake a sock or item in their cage for being a threat. If this happens, the pet may bob to show it’s intimidated. When you can’t establish the cause of head bobbing, you might want to check carefully whether the pet is seeing clothing or an item that scares them.
These materials are harmless, but for beardies, they may be different. If there are any of the mentioned items or other material you suspect is around, it may be good if you remove them.
Try removing what you suspect and see if they stop. You may discover a specific material that triggers the behavior. Beardies may also bob when they see their reflection in the mirror.
7. Head Bobbing At the Owners
It’s not uncommon for lizards to nod their heads at owners. Although this is rare, there’s a reason they do this to humans. So, is it a good or bad sign? If you notice your beardie has been head jerking at you, it’s rarely anything to worry about. Your friend is probably just saying hello.
This may also happen when you approach the pet in its aquarium, and they are just happy that you checked in. When this happens, it’s usually a slow head bob.
If you just bought your bearded dragon and you notice the head bobbing behavior, it’s likely to be something different, especially if it’s faster.
The pet is just scared and will puff up to look bigger. They also want you to know that you are the boss and you shouldn’t try to touch him.
Although it’s weird, they should get used to it with time. Avoid rushing to handle the pet and first bond to avoid upsetting them. Increase the handling gradually to help the pet trust you.
8. Acknowledging other bearded dragons
Sometimes bearded dragons slow bob each other for no good reason. Some bearded dragon owners and experts speculate that the behavior is also used to acknowledge the presence of other bearded dragon in the area. More like greetings like saying, “Hello there, fellow bearded dragon.”
9. Depth Perception
Many animals, such as bearded dragons and rabbits, have eyes located far apart on their head. As a result, they may bob to determine how far something is. Simply put, the up and down movement gives them a better sense of the surroundings.
Other Behaviors Associated Bearded Dragons
You can distinguish the meaning of head bobbing by looking at the speed and other behaviors along with it. Other common behaviors that may accompany head bobbing include:
When a bearded dragon arm waves, it’s mostly a form of submissive behavior. It’s common for juveniles and hatchlings and less common in adults.
In their social hierarchy, some of the beardies are aggressive and dominant, while others become more submissive.
The submissive ones can often be seen arm waving the dominant individuals. Besides, arm waving is standard during the mating season, when female dragons do it toward the males.
Bearded dragons also wave when they see other bigger lizards or predators in the wild. Although arm waving may appear like a friendly gesture, most of the time, it’s not.
When you see this look, it’s often a sign of a challenge among the bearded dragons, specifically males. It can also be a defensive mechanism against larger animals.
The behavior is innate in dragons and more common in the wild when they feel threatened. If this happens in captivity, it’s a sign they are not comfortable with something.
However, sometimes they do this when shedding is approaching. Fluffing the head can loosen the skin around the head.
Hissing and Stamping
Another way beardies respond when they feel scared is by hissing and stamping. If they hiss at you, it’s a sign that you need to stop what you are doing, or biting may follow.
Typically, they will hiss when they feel disturbed. Stamping is common in males, especially during mating when they stamp their feet on the ground to woo the female.
Chin Turns Black
Bearded dragons may turn black for various reasons, particularly when they feel threatened or sick. Regardless of the cause, turning their beards black is not a good sign.
When they feel threatened, they are likely to head bob and turn their chin black to show aggression.
If the blackening is paired with symptoms of illness such as loss of appetite and lethargy, you should consult a vet. The change is also common during breeding, but this is common in wild species.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does My Female Bearded Dragon Bob?
Even though head bobbing is more common in males, females are also known to bob. However, bobbing in females is usually slower and less aggressive.
In the midst of other females, bobbing may show dominance. During mating, the bobbing shows submission to the male dragon. For this, the female beardies bob slowly its head in a lively manner – it may even look like a slight vibration.
Why Do Baby Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?
Baby bearded dragons may also bob their head to signal they are afraid or feeling threatened. Head bobbing for them is instinctual as they try to assert dominance over the unfamiliar surroundings.
They may also do this to scare larger lizards. The head bobbing will cease as the pet adjusts to the habitat and starts to feel in control.
If this behavior occurs in babies, the best thing to do is offer plenty of space, water, and light.
You should not allow many people to handle the pet at the early stage, and you should also limit it yourself until the head bobbing stops. Bonding is paramount.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Head Bob At Me?
When this happens, the bearded dragon may be acknowledging you as the owner or simply to say you are the bigger one.
If you just brought your bearded dragon and it displays this behavior now and then, you just have to give it time, and it will get used to you.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Bobbing Its Head All the Time?
If your bearded dragon is head bobbing all the time for several days, it could be because there’s an intruder (not necessarily another bearded dragon). Sometimes it’s just something that has changed, like placing something near the terrarium such as keys, remote control, coke bottle, or other stuff.
If you have not added anything new to the terrarium, check and see if the window is open, and the beardie can see birds and other animals.
Note that beardies have incredibly sharp eyes and can spot things from far away. It might even be a mirror or a reflective surface, and the dragon disguises its reflection as an intruder.
What Do You Do If A Bearded Dragon Does Not Stop Head Bobbing?
If the head bobbing behavior doesn’t stop, it may be an indication that the beardie doesn’t feel safe. I recommend creating a safe place for the beardie. In the wild, for instance, beardies have many places to hide, under the grass, under huge logs of woods, under rocks, and more.
In the terrarium, you may need to create a couple of hides for your beardie if this gives them a sense of safety. Otherwise, your beardie might be more stressed and suffer psychologically.
So, look for more hides and cover the sides of the terrarium if the cause is what’s going on at the moment. You could even place non-toxic or plastic plants to provide hides for the bearded dragon.
Also, you may have to separate competing bearded dragons if you think the mates are the cause of the bobbing.
Many pet shops want you to buy more than one for company, but it’s far much better to keep one. If you are going to have a group, you’ll need to invest in a very large tank.
Still, expect to see dominant behavior among them, but if no one is hurt, no problem.
From our experience, avoid keeping two males in the same tank as this is always likely to end badly. A male and multiple females work if the females aren’t aggressive.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing While Sleeping?
If head bobbing occurs during sleep, it’s probably nothing to worry about unless there are other signs of distress.
Perhaps the only thing you should consider is the lighting. If you use a bright light in the cage, it could be the cause of head bobbing. Consider using a light timer to switch off the light at night to encourage sleep.
Is Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing Normal?
Most of the time, head bobbing is just a response to stimuli and to show mood or intentions. In other words, head bobbing is okay, but you need to understand the reason, especially if it keeps happening.
You can check the different behaviors that accompany the head bobbing. If your bearded dragon keeps nodding its head and is unhappy, then you need to look carefully and identify the root cause. Too much stress can make the beardie aggressive and may harm them.
Why Getting the Right Terrarium Set Up Is Essential
For your bearded dragon to feel happy and safe, they need the right environment. Creating a terrarium that mimics their natural habitat can go a long way in helping them feel comfortable and reduce behaviors like head bobbing.
Consider creating enough hides for the bearded dragon and add plants, so they have a place to retreat. Also, get good quality UVB light to make the dragon feel at home.
Wrapping It Up – Why Do Bearded Dragons Head Bob?
Bearded dragon head bobbing is a misunderstood behavior and one that many owners don’t pay attention to. While most of the time, it doesn’t mean anything serious, it’s essential to know the reasons and make improvements to the quality of care you provide.
However, most of the time, it’s a show of dominance over the surroundings, especially if you just brought her home or bought a new cage.
The bobbing should stop with bonding and time. Besides, most of the time, it happens is because the beardie is a little stressed, showing dominance, sexually aroused or just saying Hi.
We hope this guide helps you feel closer to your pet and that it enables you to solve any stressors your beardie is having to deal with.