Lizards can’t talk, but they can communicate. Have you ever wondered why a lizard bobs its head?

Lizards use a variety of methods to communicate with each other. They stand up, show their dewlap, wag their tails.

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And they bob their heads.

Male lizards use a variety of body language to communicate with other lizards and even with their owners. They will do push-ups to let other lizards know they are feeling aggressive and want the other lizard to go away. For the same reason, they will wag their tail. They will flare their dewlap and cheeks to show they are the boss. And they will bob their heads to show dominance, submission, or as part of their mating ritual.

To keep your lizard healthy and happy, you need to know what it’s trying to communicate.


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Lizards Bob Their Heads To Show Aggression

Lizards Bob Their Heads To Show Aggression

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I’ve owned big and small lizards, and I’ve learned they all have aggressive tendencies. If you watch them, you’ll figure out what they’re trying to say. They’ll let you know if they’re upset or feeling threatened.

Most of the lizards I’ve owned bob their heads or wag their tails to communicate when they’re feeling aggressive, but one of my lizards, a southern alligator lizard, bit without warning if I got my finger too close to him. And its bite hurt. I caught it in the wild, so that may have been part of its aggressive nature.

But most male lizards want to communicate before they bite or fight. And they communicate best with head bobbing.

When a lizard bobs it’s head its most often because it wants to scare off anything that it feels might hurt it or take its territory. The thing to notice is how fast it bobs its head.

What Does It Mean When A Lizard Bobs Its Head Fast?

When your lizard wants to show he’s upset, he’ll bob his head faster than normal. In the wild, if a lizard enters another lizard’s territory, there is a show of force. There is posturing between the two lizards as they determine who will dominate. They’ll bob their heads to get the other lizard’s attention. And the faster it bobs its head, the more aggressive it’s feeling.

If the intruding lizard responds with aggressive head bobbing, it’s showing it has accepted the challenge. The two lizards will fight to establish dominance and to claim the territory.

But not all encounters end in a fight.

What Does It Mean When A Lizard Bobs Its Head Slow?

When a lizard doesn’t want to fight, it will show submission by a slow head bob.

Because lizards have a stern stare and aggressive stance, you might think lizard will always fight when challenged. But in most cases, one lizard will put on a better show of dominance and the other lizard will submit. Unless there’s a female during mating season, there isn’t any benefit for two males to fight, even for territory. So one will submit to the other.

By head bobbing, they communicate their agreement that one lizard is dominant and the other is submissive. And the submissive lizard will retreat.

This is also true when a male lizard encounters a female.

Lizards Bob Their Heads As Part Of Their Mating Ritual

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Part of a lizard’s mating ritual is head bobbing. The male will have an exaggerated bobbing to let the female know he’s interested. And he’ll extend his dewlap (if he has one), nudge the female, and he may bite her. If the female is interested, she’ll respond with a slower head bob.

If there is more than one female in the area, it won’t result in fighting. But if there is another male, it isn’t uncommon for the two males to battle over the female until one submits and retreats.

Why Does A Lizard Bob It’s Head At People?

When a lizard’s owner approaches, the lizard will often bob its head. I’ve seen it in my lizards, and I think it’s their way of saying hello. But I’ve also seen my lizards get a more aggressive head bobbing and wave their tail. When that happens, my lizard is trying to dominate me. He’s telling me he’s bigger, meaner, and tougher.

It’s funny to watch a small lizard posture itself as the dominant when encountering a human male.

Why Does A Lizard Bob It’s Head At Women?

Lizards will flirt with women.

I’ve never seen this in the small lizards I’ve owned, but I’ve seen my 6′ long blue iguana act like it wanted to get my wife’s attention when she was near his cage. When it first happened, I noticed that my lizard was aggressive toward her. When she was near his enclosure he would start bobbing his head and extend his dewlap. And he would watch her.

Because he was acting like he wanted her to notice him, I did some research.

I learned that male iguanas can detect when a woman is on her menstrual cycle. When that happens, an iguana may get romantic and flirt a little. I didn’t track it my wife’s cycle, but in my research, I learned that the flirting happens when the male is in its mating season. Otherwise, if the male isn’t wanting to mate, it doesn’t seem to care if a woman is on her period or not.

Will A Lizard Bob It’s Head At Its Reflection?

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If your lizard sees itself in a mirror or a reflection in its cage’s glass, it will become aggressive. Lizards don’t have self-awareness, so what they see in a reflection of itself is another lizard that has invaded its space. So it will try to make it submit.

When my iguana was about 4 years old, I enlarged its cage and relocated it. Without warning, he started lashing the glass with his tale and charging it. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My iguana was angry but there was no threat.

When I moved to one side of the enclosure to see what he was looking at, I saw that the glass was acting like a mirror. He’d been raised alone and wasn’t used to other lizards, and all of a sudden, there was this intruder in his habitat. So his instincts kicked in and he attacked when the “intruder” kept bobbing its head, indicating it was challenging my iguana. As far as my iguana was concerned, he was fighting off a competing iguana. If I hadn’t intervened he would have kept attacking until he hurt himself.

After I removed the material that was causing the glass to reflect, my iguana calmed down. Within a few minutes, he acted as if nothing had ever happened.

Warning: never put anything reflective in your lizard’s cage.

Although captive lizards are not in the wild, they have wild animal instincts. Any perceived threat to their safety or territory will cause them to try and establish domination and make the threat submit and retreat.

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Lizards have good eyesight so if they see birds through a window, they might perceive them as a threat and react.

Pet cats and dogs will be curious about your new lizard and want to get a close up look at it. Your lizard will hide, try to intimidate or it may attack them.

And a lizard seeing its reflection will cause it to think there is another lizard in their territory.

Don’t forget that male lizards are romantics during the mating season. If you have a female in the cage with him, he’ll try to romance her with head bobbing and courting.

All of these situations will cause a male lizard to start bobbing its head. The faster his head bobs, the more agitated he’s feeling.

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Knowing what causes your lizard to bob his head is part of learning how he’s communicating his emotions.