Understanding why bearded dragons bob their heads is critical when you wish to provide the best possible care for your pets. While this indicator is not always obvious, learning to interpret it can assist you in making vital modifications that will allow the beardie to thrive.
When a beardie’s head starts to bob, it’s a sign that something is bothering it. It might be anxious, protecting its territory, vertigo, signaling submission, or a sign of discomfort. Behaviors like this are typical and should not cause alarm.
To guide you in this process, we’ve compiled this handy guide explaining why your bearded dragons bob their heads and what you can do about it. Continue reading and become a more knowledgeable beardie owner.
What Is Head-Bobbing Behavior?
As a bearded dragon owner, chances are you’ve seen your pet bob its head. They do it when they are young and adults, which can seem like odd behavior to people unfamiliar with them.
Often, owners of these lizards do not know why their beardie is doing it or what may be causing it. Generally speaking, it seems that most animals will bob their heads from time to time—but many don’t understand what could cause such behavior.
Let’s find out why your bearded dragon keeps bumping his head! We will explore both healthy and unhealthy reasons for head-bobbing behavior in pets.
The Main Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads
There are many reasons why bearded dragons bump their heads, and it can be a sign of annoyance, fear, or health issues such as dehydration or eyesight problems.
The best way to tell what is causing your pet dragon’s head-bobbing behavior is to observe him closely and see if you can find a pattern of when he does it most often.
Here are a few common causes for head bobbing in bearded dragons.
When the Beardie Is Feeling Territorial and Sexually Frustrated
Bearded dragons bob their heads for various reasons, but one of the most common is to express their power and authority over their domain. They may be bobbing their heads at nothing, depending on the scenario.
In the harsh Australian outback, bearded dragons have a continual urge to defend their territory, and this is a perfectly normal response. Male bearded dragons are more likely than females to engage in aggressive head bobbing.
However, both sexes can engage in this innate activity.
Males that haven’t been paired with females can become aggressive toward one another during mating season, particularly around females that have already mated with another male. Aggressive behaviors include chasing, biting, ramming into one another, and head bobbing.
The purpose of these behaviors is;
- To communicate dominance over territory (in an attempt to get a female).
- Access to food resources (if there aren’t enough female dragons available).
- They want some alone time so they don’t get into unnecessary fights with other males in captivity.
Discomfort / Vertigo
When a bearded dragon bobs his head, it usually means that he feels dizzy or disoriented due to too much movement. This feeling might occur in three scenarios;
- After the beardie gets out of the water.
- After being handled too quickly/roughly (which makes them feel like they’re falling).
- After eating or drinking too fast while trying to keep up with others, etc.
Your bearded dragon will often stick his nose straight up in the air, stand completely still, quiver slightly all over, and remain immobile until he cools down a bit before moving again, known as heat stress. They will do this not only because they need to cool down but also to prevent themselves from overheating further.
If your bearded dragon keeps bumping his head, look at his droppings immediately after (you should always check daily anyways). If feces seems pretty dark and has blood streaks in it or is absent altogether, chances are your bearded dragon might be sick.
They’re Signaling Submission
When bearded dragons are grouped, there is frequently masculine jockeying for status within their hierarchy.
When confronted by a smaller or lesser beardie, more giant bearded dragons frequently engage in short, distinct head bobs. If the smaller reptile determines that the bigger one is too threatening (or if it just believes that conflict is not worth the danger), it will often demonstrate submission with a slow bob, frequently accompanied by a quirky arm-waving gesture.
It’s worth noting that bearded dragons might direct this subservient conduct at other animals or even people. If you have giant pets that wander by its enclosure, your bearded dragon may be attempting to demonstrate that it is uninterested in a battle.
Why Do Female Bearded Dragons Bob Their Heads?
It’s normal for male bearded dragons to bob their heads, but it can be worrying if a female starts doing it. There are several different causes to head bobbing in female beardies, so you will need to look into your particular dragon’s habits before taking any action. As you spend more time around various species of bearded dragons, you may find that the bulk of head bobbing is often done by male bearded dragons.
Female bearded dragons will occasionally bobble their heads in various ways!
Female bearded dragons tend to give slower head bobbing signals rather than the fast, aggressive head motions of male bearded dragons.
By doing so, she may be demonstrating her submissiveness to another bearded dragon, or she may indicate her willingness to accept his approaches to a male.
On the other hand, attempting to establish control over the group’s other female members is unlikely to be the case if each beardie is in its enclosure.
How Does the Behavior Differ From Male to Female Bearded Dragons?
Behaviors differ from male to female bearded dragons due to gender roles. More specifically, a male bearded dragon often shows dominant behavior and will try to claim territory by bobbing his head. The male attempts to scare away other dragons interested in living in his environment.
On a lesser scale, when males spot a female dragon who may be an appropriate mate for him, he will begin head bobbing.
He also does it out of fear when confronted with more giant dragons or ones he has not seen before. Since they don’t see each other very often, it is instinctual that they want to get closer to talk to one another. They do so by moving their heads up and down with excitement. Females will bob their heads too, but rarely see them do it out of excitement.
Females also show dominance over others by bobbing their heads because they have claimed territory where smaller dragons wish to live. Because there are no females around, she needn’t worry about her future home being ruined because others think she cannot take care of it. So instead, she makes sure everyone knows who takes care of that place and how serious she is about staying there!
What Can I Do About My Beardie’s Head Bobs?
Your bearded dragon bobbing its head can be a rather amusing behavior, but it’s not very unusual. Beardies seem to nod their heads when they’re feeling stressed or threatened, as though they were saying back off or warning another bearded dragon.
If a new beardie is introduced into an established group, bobs are common until everyone gets used to each other. Some keepers have noticed that males will bob more than females, and some animals will exhibit more head-bobbing than others, but no one knows what triggers these actions.
Remember that if you are dealing with a head-bobbing situation, always contact a reptile vet immediately before trying anything yourself! The reason for getting your vet should be apparent, but just in case, here’s why: Many things could cause these behaviors.
While every species acts differently, beardies generally do not suffer from severe health problems. These dragons cannot communicate pain like mammals (i.e., they cannot vocalize). It is difficult to tell if a dragon is injured or just acting strangely. Also, reptiles require more specialized care than most people realize.
Wearing gloves while handling your pet and keeping it in a temperature gradient cage during transport to ensure proper body temperature regulation can save your animal’s life.
These precautions prevent respiratory disease, heart failure, and many other potential illnesses daily plaguing exotic pets. There are many places online where you can find an honest and reliable herp vet who will help you figure out what’s wrong with your bearded dragon.
You can also get an answer from someone who knows about reptiles by consulting forums such as reddit/r/BeardedDragons. No one person knows everything about animal care—but everyone wants to know how they can help!
What Causes The Beardies To Bob Their Heads While Sleeping?
Bearded dragons bob their heads while sleeping or basking to help regulate their body temperature. They are a few species that can voluntarily control their core body temperature. This behavior helps bearded dragons maintain a healthy body temperature, which results in a healthy metabolic rate for digestion.
When it’s too cold, they will head-bob and warm up their bodies, and when it’s too hot, they do so to cool down. As stated earlier, not all bearded dragons exhibit a head-bobbing habit; some never move theirs at all!
The difference lies in genetic predisposition and overall health. The more active your beardie is when awake, the more likely it will constantly change temperatures during sleep.
FAQ’s about Bearded Dragons
Although bearded dragons are one of two species known to exhibit head-bobbing behavior, it is still somewhat unclear why these beardies bob their heads when they feel threatened. However, Bowling Green State University researchers suggest that head-bobbing behavior is used as a form of visual communication with other beardies.
Regardless, it seems that bearded dragons use head bobbing to communicate with both fellow beardies and potential mates in various situations.
Bearded dragon head bob is a common misunderstanding among new owners, and they either believe it is a severe issue or that it is unimportant. However, as you can see, the right solution is often in the medium.
While head-bobbing may not necessarily indicate that something is wrong, it may indicate that you have a chance to improve the quality of care you provide.
If you find this piece helpful, check out our other articles for more invaluable tips on bearded dragon care and more.