Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)
Published: July 2, 2015
Last Updated: September 28, 2023
Bearded dragons (also known as the inland bearded dragon, central bearded dragon, or yellow-headed bearded dragon) are agamid lizards native to eastern and central Australia. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including semiarid desert, scrublands, and dry forests. They earned their name from their spiky, expandable throat pouch that can look very much like a beard, especially when it darkens to black.
These lizards are diurnal, meaning that they are most active during the day. They love to bask, and are commonly found sunbathing on everything from rocks and fallen branches to fenceposts and picnic tables. Although they are technically terrestrial, bearded dragons are both excellent climbers and skilled burrowers, and naturally dig burrows for shelter from predators and the elements. Since they are diurnal, they also do their hunting during the day. Bearded dragons are omnivorous, so aside from munching a variety of vegetation, they mostly prey upon insects, with the occasional small rodent or lizard.
Bearded dragons tend to be 18″-24″ (45-61 cm) long from snout to tail and have an average lifespan of 10-15 years, although they are capable of living for 20 years or longer. They are usually sexually mature and fully grown at 1-2 years old. They also possess a variety of adaptations that make them perfectly suited to their natural environment:
- Sticky tongue for grabbing insect prey, like a chameleon
- Third (parietal) eye on top of their head for detecting predators
- Spiky scales—usually soft—can be tightened into a sharp spines for self-defense
- Can darken their color to absorb heat more efficiently
- Can inflate abdomen to facilitate floating in deep water
Their natural coloration is dull brown or tan with red or gold highlights, depending on local soil color, but modern breeding practices have produced a variety of color morphs from white to lemon yellow to dark red. Some breeders specialize in dragons with bright blue “tiger bars.” Modern breeding has also produced different scale textures: Dunners (multidirectional scales), Leatherbacks (small, smooth scales), and Silkbacks (no scales).
Bearded dragons are exceptionally popular as pets, with a calm, curious temperament and array of social behaviors that makes them a safe, entertaining first reptile. They have full-color vision and a keen sense of smell that helps them recognize their keepers, and some people claim that their dragons respond to their names. All bearded dragons available for sale outside of Australia are captive bred.
If you are planning on a bearded dragon as a pet, PLEASE strongly consider adopting one from a rescue or your local classifieds before purchasing from a pet store. There are many adorable, wonderful bearded dragons that have been rejected by their owners and need a forever home.
The market is already flooded with bearded dragons. By adopting, you discourage the breeding and sale of more unwanted dragons. Plus, you can often adopt a beardie for cheaper than you would buy one in the store. It’s a win-win!