Bearded dragons have many different ways of communicating (with humans or another bearded dragon), including using their tails to signal anything from aggression to courtship. One of those signals is waving. To wave, they raise one front leg and move it in a circular motion similar to how humans wave. But what does bearded dragon waving mean?
This article will explore 9 reasons why a bearded dragon might be waving and its meaning.
What Does It Mean When A Bearded Dragon Waves?
Bearded dragons are known for their waving behavior. They wave to show submission, acknowledge another being’s presence or as a sign of happiness, among other reasons. However, bearded dragon waving doesn’t always mean anything and doesn’t require you to do anything, but others might mean you need to adjust the kind of care you’re providing.
Here’s why bearded dragons wave and what it means:
1. They’re stressed or frightened
Bearded dragons can wave their arms excessively when stressed or frightened. Stress can be caused by various reasons from changes in their surroundings, bigger bearded dragons to the presence of a large animal near its enclosure. Beardies can also wave as a response to any situation that appears stressful and frightening to them, such as loud noises or when about to be picked up by an unfamiliar person.
- It is important to note this behavior and take any necessary actions if the pet continues doing it for a prolonged period, it may cause stress-related conditions such as loss of appetite or weight loss in your beardie.
If excessive waving does not stop even after improving the comfort of their environment, consult a reptile vet near you to help you understand the body language of your bearded lizard pet.
2. It’s a sign of submission
Submission in a bearded dragon isn’t necessarily a sign of fear. Your beardie is likely to have accepted their position in life and in the pack hierarchy. Essentially, they know that anything larger is dominant. Waving is an act of submission and a way for the submissive dragon to show that it sees the other as higher in rank or power than them.
If they do not submit, this can lead to aggression, especially if more than one bearded dragon is present. This wave is often accompanied by head bobbing, leg rubbing, or tongue flicking. The waving motion also lets other bearded dragons know where their attention is so that they don’t startle them by coming up from behind.
If your bearded dragon is waving at you, it is probably communicating that it is submissive to you as the pet owner/superior.
3. Mirror reflection in the tank
Bearded dragons wave at their reflection in a glass tank or mirror. The pet is just trying to find out who’s imitating them on the other side. Sometimes, they wave at their image to acknowledge the presence of the “other dragon they see in the mirror”, suggesting they mean no harm and therefore don’t want any trouble.
4. Mating Behaviour
Another reason why bearded dragons wave is when they are trying to mate with another bearded dragon. This happens more often during the mating season. Female bearded dragon waves, sometimes followed by a slow head bob at the male to signify submissiveness and that she is interested.
If you have a male bearded dragon, the chances are pretty low that this is the reason for waving. However, males can be quite aggressive if you have a breeding pair together, the female might be waving to show submissive tendencies in a bid to try and stop biting and aggressiveness.
5. Need for space
Bearded dragons can often be seen waving their front limbs in the air when they feel crowded and need more space. When your pets feel overcrowded, it’s usually due to too many people or pets being around them.
Waving when there are many tankmates can also mean aggression towards other tank mates. This is often seen when the vivarium is small but houses multiple males and females.
Some reptiles may also wave nervously because of a lack of light and heat necessary for them to thrive. If this is the case, try to move your bearded dragon to a more secluded tank area and provide them with warmer temperatures.
Therefore, if you house your beardies together and start to find one or two of them ‘waving’ at you or at other dragons regularly, it may be time for an enclosure upgrade! A larger tank size will make them feel less crowded, which could solve their waving problem.
6. Testing for threats
A bearded dragon can wave at crickets to test for threats. This behavior indicates that the animals are intelligent creatures, not just reptiles with a special skill set.
Once the pet discovers that the crickets are safe to eat, it will wave with its back legs and continue eating. It can also wave its head at crickets to scare them off. As such, your pet is capable of distinguishing between dangerous threats and non-dangerous insects.
Do Only female bearded dragons wave?
Both males and females are known to wave their arms. Female beardies are the ones who initiate the waving as mating behaviour, but male bearded dragons wave to show submission to another bigger bearded dragon. Outside of mating behavior, all the other potential reasons for waving are shared by both genders.
The waving is however, dependent on the personality of the Bearded Dragon and the situation at hand. Some bearded dragons never wave at all, whereas others wave enthusiastically.
Should Bearded Dragon Waving Be A Concern?
As we have already seen, your bearded dragons might be waving for various reasons. Waving is not usually a sign that you need to be concerned. In most cases, waving is usually a sign of submission unless it is accompanied by other signs of stress such as loss of appetite, inactivity or change in bowel movements that show alongside excessive waving, which may indicate a possible health issue.