Bearded Dragon Head Bobbing

Written by Alex Sleeis in 2001
Page 1 of 1

Bearded Dragons have a very interesting set of social gestures. Asside from Arm Waving, Beardies also have a behavior commonly called 'Head Bobbing'.

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There are several types of head bobs. Some indicate a passive or submissive presence, while others are a sign of dominance. The first of the two videos to the right, show male Beardies displaying their territorial and mating head bob. During the filming, there were videos of females displaying passive gestures, which is what excited them enough to display dominance. The head bob more often displayed by males is rapid and agressive. Sometimes the motion shakes their whole body. As you will see, a display of their blackened beards often accompanies the aggressive head bob.

The female footage shows a slower, more passive form of head bob. This footage was taken when the females were younger, and influenced by the presence of males across the room. The female head bob is often accompanied with the arm wave behavior, as is shown.

Bearded dragons will use these gestures to communicate to each other in a social context. The chosen behavior will indicate the intention of the animal. Often with two males, there will be a conflict, and head bobs will turn into a fight. The winner gains dominance of the territory. Yes, bearded dragons can be territorial, especially the males.

These social behaviors are used to define a semi-hierarchy. Males typically dominate a given territory, but females will also have a ranking in seniority. From what I've seen, females aren't typically agressive to show dominance. Usually size will dictate seniority, and the smaller females show signs of submission before a confrontation is necessary.

An important thing to keep in mind, is that the behaviors shown are not necessarily specific to either sex. Many people try to judge the sex of their dragon based on their behavior. Females can and do display the agressive type head bobbing, but it is less common. And males will display the more submissive head bobbing. This is actually more common than you might think. Especially when a male beardie is young, they will display the submissive behavior. This makes sense, as they are quite small, and don't really have much to back agressive territorial claims. For more information on sexing your beardie, check out the Sexing Your Bearded Dragon article.

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