In captivity, bearded dragons are sweet and docile pets. They’re known for their good temperaments, and for how easy they are to care for. Sometimes, it’s funny to think about a bearded dragon being a predator. But, since these reptiles are omnivores, they are sometimes hunters.
So, how do bearded dragons hunt? And are they good hunters?
Bearded dragons hunt opportunistically in the wild. Typically, bearded dragons hunt insects and the occasional small vertebrate. Bearded dragons hunt by finding prey with their eyes. They will then run or lunge towards their prey and strike out with their sticky tongue. Bearded dragons aren’t the best hunters but they get the job done.
This article will cover everything you need to know about how bearded dragons hunt.
Do Bearded Dragons Hunt?
If you’ve never owned a bearded dragon, you might be under the impression that they only eat fruits and vegetables. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Bearded dragons are omnivores that eat plants, insects, and even small vertebrates in the wild.
Bearded dragons hunt when they are going after bugs or vertebrates.
Bearded dragons are opportunistic feeders. This means that they will hunt or forage for a wide variety of prey and are able to adapt to whatever food is available at the time. Bearded dragons hunt daily in the wild in order to stay healthy. Bearded dragons also hunt in captivity when offered live bugs.
Are Bearded Dragons Good Hunters?
Bearded dragons are good hunters!
These spiny lizards are able to catch both insects and small vertebrates. In captivity, bearded dragons still have strong hunting instincts and will go after the live bugs around them. In the wild, bearded dragons hunt well enough to survive in the extreme desert environment of inland Australia.
If you feel like your bearded dragon isn’t a good or natural hunter, there are some things you can do to help them out. Poor hunting abilities could also be an indication of some sort of medical issue. If this sounds familiar to you, keep reading to find out what you can do about a bearded dragon who doesn’t seem to be able to hunt.
How Do Bearded Dragons Hunt?
Bearded dragons hunt in a pretty straightforward manner. But, like any animal, they’ve evolved with traits and have developed techniques to make them better hunters. Here are some of the things that bearded dragons do to help them hunt.
Many reptiles have specialized sensory organs to help them hunt and find prey. Snakes are a great example of this. Snakes don’t typically use eyesight to find prey but rather use heat-sensing organs or smell to find their next meal. Their senses of taste and smell are exaggerated and connected and a snake can follow a scent trail of an animal that they’re tracking down.
As opposed to other reptiles, like snakes, bearded dragons actually have very good eyesight. They can see in full color and detail. Bearded dragons also have a photo-sensitive organ located on the top of their head, which helps them detect light and shadows. Typically, bearded dragons are able to detect prey by using their excellent vision.
Bearded dragons also have a good sense of smell and taste which can aid in hunting. But, even just seeing a jumping bug is a great start to the hunt.
If a prey item is close to a bearded dragon they’ll usually make a quick lunge to take the bug into their mouth.
Lunging is a simple and effective move that can be completed within a second. When a bearded dragon lunges, it’s super fast. The lunge is usually combined with another hunting technique we’ll talk about below.
You’ll probably be able to observe your pet bearded dragon lunging in captivity. You can try placing a shallow dish near your bearded dragon. Put a couple of live insects in the dish. You’ll notice that even though the insects are right next to your bearded dragon, they still hunt them by quickly lunging toward them.
When prey isn’t close enough to lunge at, bearded dragons will run to hunt.
Bearded dragons can run surprisingly fast for reptiles. Bearded dragons can reach a maximum speed of around 9 miles per hour when running. Sometimes, bearded dragons will rise up on their back two feet to run even faster. Running can be an effective hunting technique for chasing down smaller and slower prey items.
In the video below, you can see a great example of a bearded dragon running through its owners house to catch a bug.
The final step of a bearded dragon hunting process is usually a quick lick with their tongue.
Bearded dragons have surprisingly sensitive tongues. Actually, bearded dragons use their tongues for more than just hunting and eating. Bearded dragons tend to lick everything because it helps them get acquainted with the environment around them. Beardies can also use their tongues to smell and to mark their territory
When hunting, bearded dragons use their tongues to snatch prey right off the ground. Bearded dragon tongues are sticky and spiny, and do a great job at latching onto small insects and vertebrates. Whether a bearded dragon is lunging or running at their prey, they’ll usually finish the hunt by lashing out with their sticky tongue to catch their meal.
Do Beardies Use Their Tails To Hunt?
If you’ve ever watched a bearded dragon hunt, you might notice that they sometimes wiggle their tails before pouncing. There’s no evidence to suggest that bearded dragons actually use their tails to help them hunt. But, the tail wagging probably indicates something like excitement or energy.
Tail wagging or curling can also be observed when bearded dragons fight, run, or explore, so it’s not just limited to hunting.
What Do Bearded Dragons Hunt?
Now that we know how bearded dragons hunt, let’s talk about what sort of prey they catch!
The most hunted prey for bearded dragons are definitely insects.
In captivity, bearded dragons hunt bugs like Dubia roaches, wax worms, mealworms, crickets, and so many more. The more variety of insects you offer your bearded dragon, the better! In the wild, bearded dragons also hunt insects, like ants and beetles, or whatever they can find.
If you own a bearded dragon, you know how much these pet reptiles love hunting live insects. Not only is hunting insects good nutritionally, but it’s also mentally and physically stimulating.
In captivity, it’s not recommended to feed small vertebrates to your bearded dragon. But, since bearded dragons are opportunistic feeders, they will sometimes hunt these animals in the wild.
When push comes to shove, wild bearded dragons may hunt small vertebrates. Animals like other lizards, mice, or rats are some of the most common vertebral prey for beardies.
But, it’s so uncommon to see a bearded dragon hunting down a small vertebrate that we don’t even consider it to be a part of their regular diet.
Does foraging for plants count as hunting? Technically, no.
However, we’d like to mention that the bulk of the “hunting” that bearded dragons do is actually foraging for plants. Bearded dragons eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily in captivity. In the wild, bearded dragons will eat whatever plant matter they can find. While bearded dragons aren’t necessarily hunting for plants, they do spend a lot of time and energy looking for these food sources.
When Do Bearded Dragons Hunt?
Bearded dragons are one of the many reptiles that are awake and active during the day.
Naturally, since bearded dragons are diurnal, they hunt during the daytime. Bearded dragons don’t hunt at night because they’re usually sleeping. Usually, bearded dragons in the wild hunt whenever the weather is best during the day. Bearded dragons, living in captivity also like to eat and hunt while the sun is still up.
Even if your bearded dragon has their eyes closed during the day, they are probably just taking a nap and you can see that they’ll still hunt their food as soon as they wake up.
Ways to Improve your Bearded Dragon’s Hunting Skills
We know that bearded dragons can hunt and should be able to. But, some bearded dragons don’t have the best hunting instincts and need a little bit of help. Here are six ways to encourage your bearded dragon to be the best hunter they can be.
1. Rule Out Medical Issues
There are a variety of medical issues that can make a bearded dragon a poor hunter.
Eye issues, acute trauma, and nutritional deficiencies can affect your beardie’s hunting abilities. If your bearded dragon does have problems hunting, you’ll want to check in with your veterinarian and make sure there isn’t anything medically wrong. If there is, you’ll need to address those issues first before moving onto the next steps.
2. Feed them On A Flat Surface
Feeding your pet bearded dragon on a flat surface can give them a better chance of a successful hunt.
Using a flat surface during feeding, can improve your bearded dragon’s aim and reduce the chance that they’ll accidentally fall over or dig into the substrate. Even though bearded dragons have good eyesight, they don’t have the best depth perception, and feeding on a rocky surface is an advanced technique for some captive bearded dragons.
3. Use A Backdrop
Using a backdrop is another good way to help your bearded dragon become an expert hunter.
This sneaky trick comes from Rebecca’s Leopard Gecko YouTube channel. She describes a setup where she uses a small door stopper as a backdrop for her leopard geckos during mealtime. The simple backdrop seems to help her geckos see the prey better. This trick is also applicable to bearded dragons who don’t hunt well.
4. Feed In Daylight or Bright Light
Since bearded dragons are diurnal, they see best during the daytime.
If you’re feeding your bearded dragon during the evening, or in a dark room, they may have trouble seeing their prey. Make sure that all of the lights are turned on, and all the windows are open when you feed your bearded dragon. You don’t want to blind them with lights, but you want to provide them with enough lighting that they’re able to see the difference between substrate and food.
5. Wiggle The Food
All predators, including bearded dragons, have something called a prey drive. This is a natural instinct to hunt down food that helps them stay alive in the wild.
A prey drive is often activated or triggered by moving food. If live insects aren’t already activating your bearded dragon’s prey drive, you can try wiggling the food around yourself. You can use tongs or your hands to move the bugs around and try to catch your bearded dragon’s eye that way.
6. Check The Temperature
The last way to help your bearded dragon hunt is to make sure they’re warm enough to do so.
If bearded dragons are cold, they are not going to have the energy to move around and hunt. Bearded dragon enclosure should fall between 75 and 85°F. There should also be a basking area for your bearded dragons that is around 100°F. If your bearded dragon’s enclosure isn’t warm enough, they’re going to look like pretty sad hunters because they just won’t be able to move properly.
Should You Worry If Your Bearded Dragon Can’t Hunt?
If your bearded dragon is a really bad hunter, it may be a sign that something is up. Talk to your veterinarian so you can rule out any medical concerns. But, your bearded dragon might just have a low prey drive because they’re full and comfortable under your care. It’s probably not something to worry about if your bearded dragon isn’t the most motivated hunter.
For being so small and calm as pets, bearded dragons are reasonably good hunters. Bearded dragons hunt bugs and occasional vertebrates by lunging or running at them. Bearded dragons capture their prey by sticking out their tongues and get to enjoy their meal directly after. If a pet bearded dragon has problems hunting, they might just need a little help from you, or in some cases may have a medical issue.
We hope this article has answered all of your questions about bearded dragon hunting abilities!