Ever watched a metal concert? People there often do a motion called “head-banging”. It’s when they violently shake their heads up and down. You’ve probably seen it before.
If you put that into the context of lizards, then head banging is basically what a lizard does (only at much slower speeds). The internet is full of videos of lizards bobbing their head, where they move it up and down quickly.
While these are pet lizards, and thus their bobbing is inconsequential, wild lizards do it too.
It looks funny, but there are specific reasons for which lizards do it.
There are many reasons for which a lizard bobs its head. In this article, we are going to see them, and also see how to make a pet lizard do it.
Lizard Head Bobbing Explained
Lizards bob their heads for survival. Survival, in this case, means anything concerned with both safety and creating offspring.
For example, here is a bearded dragon desperate for attention from a partner. There are no potential ones in the area, but he’s trying his best to find one. You can see him bob his head fast and often.
Let’s see why lizards bob their head. It’s fascinating how much they can communicate with such a simple movement.
Editor’s note: This action is extremely fascinating. Because not only it’s used in multiple contexts. Lizards use the same bobbing pattern for everything. Basically, if you want to understand what a lizard is trying to communicate when bobbing its head, analyze the context.
When lizards find a potential partner, they’ll bob their head to display interest and catch their attention. Lizards use their bobbing as a way of communication and making themselves more attractive to potential partners.
“I am interested in you, and I’m willing to mate with you.” This is what the lizard is saying when it bobs its head. The faster the bobbing, the strongest the interest shown.
But they also do it when they are looking for a partner when no one is in sight. That’s when they hope that a lizard of the opposite sex will notice them. It’s a way to tell that they’re there, alone, and available.
Scaring Other Lizards
If an uninvited lizard enters its territory, a dominant one will bob its head at them to show dominance. It’s
The bobbing also happens when two lizards are near each other, and they feel like there’s a potential conflict in the air. This happens with both male and female lizards. When a fight is brewing, they’ll start bobbing their head aggressively at each other.
It’s a weird ritual, but it makes sense. They do the same when facing a predator. They’re trying to tell the other lizard “don’t mess with me or hands will be thrown!”. Sometimes, the bobbing escalates into actual violence, but usually it doesn’t.
Attention Seeking from Humans
Lizards who are used to getting a lot of attention from their owners will often try to get more by bobbing their head at them.
In fact, you can influence your pet lizard to bob their head more often. If you catch their attention, they’ll try to catch yours back by bobbing their head. We’ll see how more later on in the article.
Defense Against Predators
When a lizard feels threatened, it will often bob its head at the predator to intimidate them. It’s sort of like when you see people puffing their chests or making themselves bigger when in front of someone they don’t like (or is threatening).
Usually this is accompanied by the other defense mechanism of the lizard. For example, male Anoles will display their pink dewlap when they feel in danger.
While this might look bizarre—how is head bobbing supposed to be scary—it actually works. Many predators will be discouraged by this behavior. Scientists speculate it’s because predators need to surprise the lizard to actually catch it. But if a lizard is bobbing its head, then it’s telling the predator, “I know where you are and I’m not scared”. This is usually enough to discourage the predator.
Communicate with Other Lizards
Sometimes lizards bob their head to communicate or get the attention of other lizards.
Therefore, you’ll often see pet lizard owners put over one of them in a terrarium, so they can establish hierarchies and socialize with each other. They do this by doing what I just described: bowing their head to show interest or dominance.
Bearded dragons are good at communicating with other lizards via bobbing their heads, especially when they live in groups of over one dragon. They do it often and since they have very expressive personalities, you can see how much energy is put into each head bob.
This communication between pet lizards is very important to them, because they are social creatures.
If you have multiple lizards, don’t be surprised if the dominant one bobs its head at your other pet lizard(s) daily! It’s just trying to communicate with it.
Now, what are they actually trying to tell each other? We may never know. But it’s still fascinating to observe. The thing is, friendly lizards could just be doing it as a greeting ritual. We have no way to tell.
When there is no apparent cause for a lizard bobbing its head, it’s probably because it is stressed.
It could be because there isn’t enough humidity in its environment, or it might just be stressed for whatever reason. Maybe it’s hungry, or thirsty. Or there’s not enough light, or too much. This is especially true for pet lizards. If you’ve ever looked into owning a lizard, you’ll know you need a very specific setup to let them thrive. It’s easy to forget about maintaining it sometimes, causing the lizard stress.
Therefore you should always take your pet lizards to the vet if they bob their heads more than usual. It’s not normal and something probably wrong with them (or at least worth checking).
But you know how some pets like dogs will wag their tail when they are happy? Well, lizards can do it too. This happens often when they have seen no one in a while.
So, don’t just assume that a lizard bobbing its head for seemingly no reason is doing it out of stress.
Lizards Who Enjoy Head Bouncing
Even though this is a natural behavior for lizards, some of them are more likely to use it than others.
Some lizard breeds naturally bob their head when they are happy or relaxed, while others do it because that’s just what they like to do.
You’ll often see iguanas and other large reptiles who love attention be the ones doing it the most.
But there are also some who will not do it at all, like leopard geckos.
These are all behaviors you’ll have to watch out for if you want a pet lizard, and sometimes they can be signs of an underlying problem with your pet. Just make sure that they always feel comfortable around you or other people, otherwise something might go wrong.
Some breeds of lizards do this more than others, and it’s not something that you should worry about too much if your pet lizard isn’t doing it.
It might just mean that they are a little less social or don’t like attention as much. Some lizards don’t like to show interest or dominance towards other lizards (or humans) because they aren’t as social creatures. It’s just their personality type: introverted and shy.
Understanding Your Pet Lizard’s Head Bobbing
If you want to make your pet lizard bob its head more often, then here are a few things that might work.
First, what kind of food do they eat? A healthy diet with lots of greens will help them feel better and happier. If they are happy and know they can get your attention, they are likely to bob their head towards you.
Having the right temperature for them is very important as well. If they are too cold or hot, then this can stress them out and lead to head bobbing more often than usual.
You should also make sure that your pet lizard’s terrarium has enough hiding spots, so it feels safe when you aren’t around (or just want some time alone). They like to feel protected, and therefore, they will bob their heads at you when they are relaxed.
So, if your pet lizard isn’t doing it as much, then make sure that these factors are in check before assuming that something might be wrong with them.
If there seems to be nothing wrong but the head bobbing doesn’t stop, then you should definitely take your pet lizard to the vet.
When there is no apparent reason for their behavior, it’s always best if they are checked out by a professional in case there might be something wrong with them that needs medical attention.
Just remember not to worry too much about head bobbing! It happens naturally and more often than not, it’s a sign of nothing wrong. If you see your pet lizard doing this, then there is no need to stress yourself out about them being sick or having an underlying medical condition that needs attention immediately.
The range of emotions expressed by such a simple movement is fascinating. Humans need an entire vocabulary and body language to express themselves. Lizards do it with a few precise movements (head bobs, puffing their dewlaps when present, and head bobbing).
It’s important to understand the context of lizards bobbing their head. They could greet another lizard or telling it to leave. Or they might try to scare a predator away. If you are watching the lizard in a vacuum, you have no chance of understanding what it’s trying to accomplish.
The internet is full of videos of lizards bobbing their heads. While we think it’s cute, it’s a necessary tool for survival for the lizards. So, when you see them doing it, it’s probably best to stop and try to figure out what is it they need. Or, observe them if they’re in the wild. It’s probable that something is about to happen.