bearded dragon head bobbing

Why Do Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?

Bearded dragons are popular pets who display a range of

  • Territorial
  • Social, and
  • health-related behaviors. They do not communicate by sound, other than an aggressive hiss.  But they use a range of
  • posturing
  • physical gestures, and
  • color displays to communicate with their owners and other bearded dragons. Hence, understanding their gestures can help you know what mood your pet is in. In general, head-bobbing is common in all bearded dragon species.

Why do bearded dragons bob their heads? Usually, this type of behavior is commonly seen in male bearded dragons. In summary, a bearded dragon will head bob to another Bearded Dragon in an attempt to display dominance.

The following information will address the issue of head bobbing among bearded dragons:

Why Bearded Dragons Bob their Heads

Fast Bobbing – I’m the Boss

Fast head-bobbing is mainly observed in males. It can indicate

  • aggression
  • territoriality, and
  • dominance.

Males will often quickly bob their heads up or down toward younger males and females. If the other dragon returns a fast head-bob, it is a challenge. Thus,  they will fight to establish territory.

In contrast, if the other dragon responds with a slow head-bob or a slow wave, or both, then he is recognizing the dominance of the initiating bearded dragon.

Jerky Bobbing – You’re Sexy

During the mating season, your dragon may exhibit a violently jerky head-bob. Often combined with darkening of his beard. The jerky movement can make his whole body move.

In general, it is his way of showing a female that he’s interested in her. And at the same time, he is telling other males to stay away as he is intending to mate.

In response, the female will give a slow arm wave if she is receptive to him.

Slow Bobbing – You’re the Boss

A slow head-bob returned in response to a fast head-bob is a way of acknowledging the initiating bearded dragon in a non-challenging way. It is usually accompanied by a slow wave indicating that the dragon accepts the dominance of the lead male.

Females will also sometimes give a slow head-bob when they are ready to mate.

Bobbing to Owner – Hello

Some dragons do a fairly slow head-bob when the owner approaches their living environment. Anecdotally, it appears to be a way of acknowledging the provider’s presence, like saying hello.

Likewise, you can sometimes see younger nodding to each other without any aggression following. And this also seems to be an acknowledgment of each other.

Separation Of Competing Dragons

A lot of pet shops recommend buying more than one bearded dragon, because one alone might be lonely. This isn´t the truth.  Those pet shops only want to make more money. In fact, it is better to have only one bearded dragon in one tank.

However, you can have a group of bearded dragons in one tank, but you have to make sure that you have a really big tank. Although, even if you have a big terrarium, it can happen that bearded dragons show dominant behavior.

Therefore, if they show it from time to time and no one gets hurt, it is okay. However, if you see it every day you should act. Your bearded dragons might be about to fight and that can end pretty badly and I am sure you do not want that.

So if your bearded dragons are bobbing their head quickly the whole day, you should separate them.

From experience, I can say that two males in one tank are always a bad choice. A female and a male can work, or multiple females with one male, or only female.

It could work, it does not mean it will work. I have also seen aggression between female dragons.

Why Female Bearded Dragons Bob their Head

Female bearded dragons do not use the head bob as often as males do. While female can show dominance, it is actually pretty rare. Females just don´t need to defend their territory most of the times.

So why do they bob their heads? Most of the time, this shows that the female is willing to mate with a male bearded dragon. The female will slowly bob its head, but it will look more bouncy than the typical head bob. It can even look like the head is vibrating a little bit.

In fact, if a female bearded dragon finds a partner to mate, this will go on until they mate and sometimes it can even be seen during the mating process.

Why Your Bearded Dragon is Head Bobbing at You

Sometimes it can happen that your bearded dragon wants to show you (Yes, you! The owner!) that it is the stronger and bigger one. Or it wants to show you that you are the bigger one.

I am sure that a lot of bearded dragon owner experience this. As a result, if you recently bought your bearded dragon and it shows this behavior, just give it time, it will get used to you.

Why your Bearded Dragon Head Bobs all the Time

If your bearded dragon is head bobbing all the time each and every day, it might be, because your bearded dragon sees something that might be an intruder. This does not have to be another bearded dragon.

Also, it can be a piece of furniture that looks suspicious. It can be something that you put near the terrarium. Like the remote control, your keys, a coke bottle, you name it.

However, if you did not place any new things near the terrarium, check if your bearded dragon can look out of the window. A lot of times bearded dragons feel intimated by birds that they see outside of the window.

You might think now that I am joking, but bearded dragons actually have excellent eyes and they can see such things.

It can also happen that the dragon sees its reflection in the glass of the terrarium and thinks that there is an intruder.

Why Your Bearded Dragon is Head Bobbing at Nothing

One common misconception amongst new bearded dragon owners is that when their bearded dragon is head bobbing, something has to be directing it. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth!

Think of it this way, your bearded dragon isn’t necessarily head bobbing at something, so much as they are head bobbing because of a feeling they have.

Likewise, your bearded dragon could be head bobbing in order to assert dominance over

  • you
  • their new environment
  • another animal (whether it’s in their cage or just within view).

They could also be head bobbing simply because it’s “that time” of year where they just have mated in the brain.

In both scenarios, bearded dragons are head bobbing at something, but more so to express their feelings.

Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing While Sleeping   

If your bearded dragon is head bobbing in his or her sleep, chances are there is nothing to worry about. Especially, if there are no other signs of distress or concern

You can pretty much chalk it up just to them falling in and out of sleep a little.

However, if you have a bright light on in the cage, like a red light, it could be that their sleeping schedule is out of whack. As they need total darkness to sleep comfortably.

So, moral of the story? Don’t leave any lights on at night!

Should You Worry If your Bearded Dragon is Always Head Bobbing?

If your bearded dragon is always head bobbing but is showing no other signs of concern, then you don’t have anything to worry about.

Also, If your bearded dragon is black bearding and head bobbing, it is most likely for one of the following reasons…

  • there is something stressing them out like
  • a new habitat
  • a new pet (cat, dog, other reptiles) they can see, or
  • feeders that are being left to roam in the cage, etc.
  • it’s mating season either literally or in their mind. Your male is going to be a little scaly ball of hormones for a couple of weeks or months. So, just be ready for it. It’ll pass.
  • they’re showing dominance over
  • you,
  • another pet, or
  • a new habitat. That is, if you change your bearded dragon’s cage or recently brought them home, then they likely feel the need to assert dominance over their new environment and neighbor (you).

Similarly, this can happen if they’re in a cage with another beardie, which is not recommended.

Wrapping Up Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing

If your bearded dragon is head bobbing, it is important to realize that 9/10 times there isn’t anything super serious causing it. Chances are, they’re

  • either horny
  • asserting dominance, or worst case scenario
  • a little stressed.

Consider the time of the year, their surroundings, and if they’re showing any health concerns.