Bearded dragons are unique and distinct reptiles not only in terms of their look and habitat requirements but also in terms of their curious body language. If I ask, do bearded dragons exhibit some human action or behavior? Novice beardie owners will be surprised, “what! Do bearded dragons really express some human actions” but many of you seasoned beardie owners will nod their heads up and down. Yes, bearded dragons sometimes stand on three limbs and raise and move one of their forelimbs like waving their arms in the air. This behavior is named “arm waving”. Arm waving is a quirky, amusing, and perplexing behavior that no one expects from a reptile. Arm waving is one of many gestures that bearded dragons (as a part of their body language) usually express to communicate with other animals and their owner in captivity.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Wave Arm?
As mentioned above, arm waving is one of many ways bearded dragons generally use to communicate with others (animals or humans). They can exhibit this behavior due to several reasons, most of which are natural. However, in some instances, your bearded friend may need your help, and you may have to make some adjustments.
The most common situation you have a maximum chance to observe arm waving behavior is when you place two or more beardies in the same place (remember, experts, do not recommend this). Forced by its solitary nature, every bearded dragon tries to establish dominance. This can be a beginning of a horrible fight until the king is decided. And the overwhelmed beardies may wave their arm in the air as a signal of their submission. Sometimes if one bearded dragon is bigger than the other, so as soon as the bigger one begins to show aggressive behavior, the smaller one may wave his arm immediately (before any conflict starts). By this, they actually message to the bigger bearded dragon; ok, you are the boss here, or I accept your authority.
In the wild, bearded dragons wave arms frequently when they meet each other. They may be just saying hello to each other or messaging the intruder that I know you are here, keep away; this is my place. Sometimes intruding dragon wave his arm, signals that I don’t want to harm you or you are the authority here. Bearded dragons also wave arms at you or other pets (dog, cat, etc.) in the house just as recognition of their presence. Although a bearded dragon waving his arm at your dog or cat looks intriguing and funny, unfortunately, it indicates that your bearded friend is scared and is just expressing his submission to larger pets.
It is actually the extension of submission and recognition behavior. If you have placed your bearded friend in a glass tank, then it is possible that he may see his reflection in the glass wall and may take it as another bearded. So naturally, he will wave his arm to message that I know you are here and express aggressive behavior to show his dominance. On the other hand, sometimes bearded dragons are so scared of their reflections that they wave their arms to show their submission. This cause can be removed very easily by covering the side and back glass walls with solid color paper, making the reflection disappear.
When the mating season comes, the males usually bob their heads to look more attractive and message to females that they are available for mating. On the other hand, females show their availability by slowly waving their arms and slightly bobbing their heads soon after that. However, if females wave their arms too much or rapidly and do not bob their heads, it indicates that they are stressed or uncomfortable and need to be left alone.
Natural Behavior of Young Bearded Dragons
Young bearded dragons usually express arm waving behavior more frequently than adult beardies. It is so because everything in the surrounding environment is new to them, and they are timid and submissive due to their age. When living in groups (especially in the wild), the juvenile bearded dragons wave arms just to recognize one another’s presence. Another possible reason is that the young beardies are growing, their territorial instinct has begun to express itself, and submissive ones are waving their arms to dominant beardies. It is a signal for you also to keep them in separate tanks now.
Stress & Discomfort
All the reasons for arm waving discussed above are part of the natural behavior of bearded dragons that don’t need your immediate attention or rarely need minor adjustments. However, sometimes bearded dragons may wave their arms because they are uncomfortable or stressed for any reason and want to draw your attention toward the issue. Generally, bearded dragons get stressed if the temperature, light duration, and humidity inside the tank are not properly maintained, larger pets (like dogs or cats) move around, kids make a loud noise, or when two beardies are kept in the same tank, the less dominant one is continuously under stress.
How To detect Arm Waving Is Natural Or Due To Stress & Fear
Generally, when expressing their natural behavior, bearded dragons wave their arms slowly and don’t repeat this action too much. However, an uncomfortable, stressed, or scared bearded dragon will wave his arm hastily and repeat it many times because he wants to make sure that you notice him.
Why Bearded Dragons Wave At Crickets?
Baby and juvenile bearded dragons often wave at crickets, which is both intriguing and concerning at the same time. Waving at cricket could be of many possible reasons. Firstly, your bearded friend is just pretending to be friendly, making the crickets come close so that he can catch them easily. Secondly, if you put all the crickets at once in the tank, he may be scared to see so many crickets suddenly, and we know beardies wave when they are afraid. Thirdly, if the cricket’s sizes are too large for your beardies to eat, he will wave because he is not comfortable eating.
Is Your Bearded Dragon Waving At You?
This behavior is mostly observed when you adopt a new bearded dragon. Seeing your beardie waving at you is amazing, but most owners may interpret it wrong. They are actually not saying hello or showing affection. Since you have recently adopted them, they are not familiar with you, so they wave arms, considering you an intruder or potential threat. Nothing to be concerned about here; it’s their natural behavior and will fade away within a few days once they become familiar with you.
Wave Back In reply
If your bearded friend is waving at you, the best solution is to reply by waving at them. Since submissive beardies wave their arm, so by waving back them, you will send a message that I accept your authority, you are the boss here, or I don’t have any bad intentions. As a result, your bearded dragon will allow you to come close, and you can harvest this opportunity to build mutual confidence.
Arm waving is a natural behavior of bearded dragons that they often express for multiple reasons. Most of which are normal, and the owner doesn’t need to be concerned. However, sometimes they wave their arms when they fear something or feel uncomfortable in their environment. In such cases, the owner must respond quickly to sort the issue.