Bearded Dragon Mating: The Intriguing Reproductive Behavior of Bearded Dragons

Pogona vitticeps, the central (or inland) bearded dragon, is a species of agamid lizard occurring in a wide range of arid to semiarid regions of Australia.
© Lutsenko_Oleksandr/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sam Hindman

Updated: September 11, 2023

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Bearded dragons are incredible creatures for many reasons. Though not often discussed, one of these is their interesting mating process. Of all lizards, bearded dragons are some of the most prolific breeders. They need little encouragement to get going and hardly any help to produce dozens of young every year. But how does this fascinating process actually work?

In this article, we’ll be detailing the bearded dragon mating process from beginning to completion. Whether you’re the owner of a bearded dragon or simply interested in these unique and loveable reptiles, you’re sure to learn something about their reproductive behavior and processes.

Bearded Dragon Courtship

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Some visual courtship processes for bearded dragons are arm-waving, head bobbing, and a darkened beard.

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Interestingly enough, the criteria for a bearded dragon to be of reproductive age has nothing to do with how long they have lived. In actuality, their size determines whether or not a bearded dragon can mate. For instance, if they reach full size before they’re a year old, that means they can be sexually mature.

Two specific visual behaviors can tip you off that the bearded dragon mating process is going to initiate:

  1. Arm-Waving: This happens when a bearded dragon lifts their front leg and moves it in a circle. This can also be a sign of regular acknowledgment, but in the context of courting, females will probably use it to signal to nearby men their interest.
  2. Head Bobbing: This varies from gender to gender. Males display frequent head bobs to show off their dominance and to hopefully attract a mate. These bobs have different intensities, and females who bob their heads will do it at a much slower rate.

Another interesting physical behavior is that during courtship, sometimes a male bearded dragon’s beard will turn black! This is, of course, to impress the ladies. Sometimes the females will also display this, but it’s less common.

Something important to note is that not all females will be receptive to courting every time. If she seems calm and is giving indicators like arm-waving, then it’s likely that she’s interested. But look out for things like hissing, flattening of the body, or biting. This means that she is not presently looking for love, and that should be respected.

Bearded Dragon Mating and Conception

Heat lamp for bearded dragons

If you notice one of your bearded dragons is stressed while mating, it’s important to separate them.

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The bearded dragon mating ritual can become quite violent. It’s important to note that if you’re an owner who is observing the process, you must be prepared to intervene if necessary. Take some time to notice if there are any signs of stress in one of the dragons or if one is becoming visibly aggressive. Also- be aware that if and when the eggs hatch, it is your responsibility to either take care of or rehome the baby dragons.

The mating behavior of the bearded dragon is usually initiated by the male. As we touched on earlier, this includes things like head bobbing and arm waving. Before they begin mating, the male might nudge or lick the female on her back and sides. At this point, it will be noticeable as to whether or not the female is receptive.

If she is, the male will climb onto her back and grip her between his front legs. Typically, there will be some biting involved, as the male will attempt to use his mouth to keep himself in the correct position. This might seem aggressive, but so long as the female is not notably stressed, you shouldn’t worry. It’s a standard part of the mating process.

The Biology Behind The Ritual

Here is what’s happening behind what you can visually see. The male begins to align his vent, which is the genital opening on his underside, with that of the female. He then uses one of his reproductive organs (called hemipenes) to transfer his sperm into the female’s cloaca.

From there, the females have most of the control. Female bearded dragons have the unique ability to store sperm for quite some time after mating, and the eggs will remain fertilized regardless of when they are laid. This way, they can have multiple clutches within a single mating season. It’s more efficient that way!

Do Bearded Dragons Go Into Heat?

There’s a bit of a misconception in terms of what “heat” means. You see, bearded dragons do not have the same processes as mammals. That being said, they do have breeding seasons during which there will be increased readiness for mating. Their breeding season usually corresponds to whatever the Australian summer months are. This is around September to March in the wild, but it differs when in captivity.

If conditions like the lighting and temperature stay consistent in their home, bearded dragons can produce several clutches of eggs in a year. Just because they can, though, doesn’t mean it is entirely healthy. Make sure that in between clutches, your female dragons have plenty of time to recover. Also, be sure to give them some additional nutrients (especially calcium)!

Bearded Dragon Gravidity

pregnant bearded dragon in a terrarium is looking at camera

Some signs of a gravid bearded dragon include weight gain, strange behavior, and digging.

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Dissimilar to mammals, these reptiles don’t have a “pregnancy.” The term that is used instead is called “gravidity,” and this process can occur whether or not the eggs have been fertilized due to bearded dragon mating. To tell whether your bearded dragon is gravid, watch out for these signs:

  1. Weight Gain: Your female bearded dragon will very visibly pack on a few pounds when she’s gravid. Her abdomen will be swollen due to the eggs that are developing, and this can be a bit uncomfortable.
  2. Odd Activity: In some instances, your bearded dragon will decrease in activity. In others, the gravid female will become restless and roam around a lot more than usual. This varies from case to case, but either way, her behavior will vary from the norm.
  3. Digging Around: Gravid females will inevitably start to dig. This signals that she is searching for somewhere to lay her eggs and can indicate that she’s far along.

Gravidity is a normal process, sure, but that doesn’t mean it is without risks. This is incredibly physically demanding, and there are some health concerns to look out for. Specifically, there is a risk of something called egg-binding. This condition is the inability of a female bearded dragon to lay her eggs. This can be due to illness, inadequate conditions to lay eggs in, or even just some abnormally large eggs. This is a life-threatening condition, so immediately alert your veterinarian if you suspect that egg-binding is happening.

The Egg-Laying of Bearded Dragons

baby-bearded-dragon-siblings

Baby bearded dragons become independent as soon as they hatch.

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The final and most beautiful stage of the bearded dragon mating process is the laying and hatching of the eggs! First, you must prepare your lady for her laying. Provide a laying box filled with either moist sand or sand and soil. It needs to be damp enough to hold its shape because the female will build a tunnel to deposit the eggs. During this time, make sure your female has some privacy! If you disrupt her, it can cause a great deal of stress.

The number of eggs expected per clutch can vary, but it could be anywhere from 15 to 30. If you want to incubate these eggs, there is a controlled process containing some tips you must know.

  • These eggs must be incubated at a temperature of between 28 to 30 degrees Celsius.
  • The incubation period ranges anywhere from 55 to 75 days, depending on a number of factors.
  • When the eggs hatch, the baby bearded dragons will emerge, ready to begin their lives! In fact, they’ll start catching prey on their own in just a few days.

Aftercare is incredibly important. Your bearded dragons love and trust you to keep them healthy, especially after something as tiresome as the egg-laying process. Make sure your mother dragon has rest, food, water, and plenty of vitamins. The reason that calcium, in particular, is so important is because eggs totally deplete the female’s calcium reserves. Once you’re sure she’s safe and comfortable, you can turn your attention over to the miracle of life that is happening right in front of you!


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About the Author

Sam Hindman is a writer at A-Z animals covering a range of topics, including pet care, plant care, pest control and travel destinations. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Studies at Point Park University, set to graduate in the spring of 2024. A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when she isn't writing, she's spending time with her beloved cat Archie.

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