Bearded dragons, like all reptiles, are somewhat mysterious animals, so understanding their behavior and body language can be trickier than it may be with a dog or a cat. Staring is one of the behaviors that we may perceive as unusual, but it’s very normal and is born out of instinct or curiosity.
If your bearded dragon has taken an extra special interest in you, read on to explore some possible reasons why they might be staring you down—don’t worry, there’s nothing sinister about it!
The 5 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Staring at You
It’s hard to know exactly why bearded dragons like to get their gawp on, but there are a few very likely possibilities, including:
One of the most probable reasons your bearded dragon is fixing you with a gaze is that they’ve taken an interest in you and are trying to gather as much information as possible about you. This is a natural bearded dragon behavior, and you may even spot them turning their head to the side—an action that helps them get a better view of what’s going on.
On that note, bear in mind that head tilting can sometimes be a sign of sickness in bearded dragons, so keep an eye out for other signs your beardie might be unwell, including lethargy, wheezing, eye, ear, nose, or mouth discharge, swollen eyes, diarrhea, constipation, and weight loss.
2. Threat Assessment
On the flip side, your bearded dragon may be trying to ascertain whether or not you’re a potential predator. This is especially likely in young bearded dragons that haven’t had time to get used to your presence yet and are stressed or nervous.
It’s important to avoid trying to pick up a new bearded dragon too quickly or from overhead. This is because bearded dragons have a third eye on the top of their heads that helps them detect the shadows of potential predators, so swooping in can cause them to mistake you for a threat. Instead, pick them up from the front or side.
To help them feel less threatened by you, you can place your hand in their enclosure. Don’t try to touch them yet or put your hand too close to them, just let your hand dangle there to let the beardie get used to it. You can then progress to gently and slowly moving things around the enclosure, then encouraging the bearded dragon to climb onto your palm.
3. Defensive Posture
In male bearded dragons, head bobbing is a display of dominance and sometimes acknowledgment, but it can also be used to indicate that they’re on the defensive. Other signs that a bearded dragon is defending their territory include staring, hissing, puffing out their beard, and opening their mouth (this is also a way for bearded dragons to regulate their temperature). Sometimes, when a bearded dragon is stressed or threatened, their beard will turn black.
Being stared down and bobbed at can be disheartening and even scary for a new beardie parent, but don’t worry. With time, patience, and gradual socialization, your bearded dragon will soon learn that you mean no harm.
4. Boredom or Hunger
Perhaps your bearded dragon is in need of a bit of attention from you or more mentally stimulating items and toys inside its enclosure and is staring at you as a form of entertainment. It’s also possible that it’s around the usual feeding time and your beardie is anticipating your approach with something tasty in hand (or hoping for it).
5. A Virus
If your beardie is staring upwards, they may not actually be looking at you, but doing what’s called “stargazing”. This is a sign of atadenovirus, a common bearded dragon virus. Stargazing is one of the rarer symptoms of this virus, but it’s still good to be aware of it just in case.
A staring bearded dragon could be simply curious, bored, or hungry, but it’s also possible that the beardie is feeling afraid, stressed, or threatened. By providing plenty of mental enrichment, you’ll hopefully soon get them to take an interest in things other than just you.
If you think your bearded dragon is staring because they’re nervous, be sure to approach gently and gradually, and they should soon start to feel more comfortable around you. Avoid forcing your bearded dragon to be held or petted—give them time to get used to you and come to you when they’re ready.
Finally, if you think your bearded dragon might be sick due to a condition like the atadenovirus, please get in touch with your vet immediately.