Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptiles to keep as pets. These Australian lizards’ luxurious “beards,” and adorable faces make them a beautiful and eye-catching scaly companion.
Beloved for their affectionate nature and silly antics, bearded dragons’ wide variety of behaviors – including standing up on their hind legs, pancaking, and hunting insects – is entertaining for all!
Bearded dragons use their body language to communicate how they are feeling. As a bearded dragon owner, it is important to observe your pet often so that you understand what their normal, healthy behavior and temperament are.
A major component of bearded dragon behavior is the position of their tail.
Why do bearded dragons curl their tails?
Bearded dragons usually curl their tails because they are feeling alert. Exploring their environment, hunting an insect, expecting food, feeling territorial, or looking for a mate are all possible reasons for a heightened state of alertness. Bearded dragons also curl their tails to help regulate their temperature, as well as when they are running.
Regardless of the reason your bearded dragon is curling their tail, it is a completely normal behavior and is no cause for concern.
What Is Tail-Curling?
While the mention of a curled tail likely evokes an image of a bearded dragon’s tail curled up in a coil, perhaps like a chameleon’s, beardies tail-curling is a bit more subtle.
When we say “tail-curling” in reference to bearded dragons, we are referring to a gentle, upward curvature that results in the tail tip pointing almost straight up – or even towards the head!
Why Do Bearded Dragons Curl Their Tails?
Now that we have established what tail-curling is, let’s dive into possible reasons why bearded dragons curl their tails!
Reason 1: Exploring Or Alertness
The most common reason that bearded dragons curl their tails upward is that they are feeling alert! If your bearded dragon curls their tail, it likely means that they are wide awake and ready for action, depending on the context of the situation they might be ready to explore.
Bearded dragons are very curious creatures and can recognize new objects and environments. If you have recently gotten your bearded dragon, upgraded their enclosure, or even gotten a new item for their habitat, your beardie is likely closely investigating the changes.
Perhaps you’ve taken your dragon out of their habitat to let it safely explore your home, as the beardie owner did in the video below:
As you can see in the video, the end of this bearded dragon’s tail is curved slightly upward.
Beardies often curl their tails when exploring new environments – it means they are feeling alert and inquisitive! A curled tail signals that a bearded dragon is focused on taking in their surroundings.
These desert-dwelling lizards use their tails to convey messages to their owners, other lizards, and even predators. By curling their tail when exploring a new environment, your dragon is telling any potential predators in the area that it’s strong, healthy, and alert – and won’t be an easy meal.
Reason 2: Hunting
Another time bearded dragons are at their most alert is when they are hunting down a tasty insect. If you’ve ever seen a beardie run down a cricket, you may have noticed their tail tends to curl upward when they hunt.
When bearded dragons are hunting, they are alert and focused on their prey. In this case, the curled tail signals intense concentration.
Sometimes, beardies even wiggle their tails a little before pouncing on an unsuspecting insect.
It is also possible that they are just excited about food!
Reason 3: Excited
If you consistently feed your bearded dragon at a certain time of day, your lizard will catch on pretty quickly!
You may approach the enclosure to find that your scaly friend is already at the front of their habitat, waiting for you! Beardies curl their tails when they are excited – and, knowing beardies – they get very excited about food!
Your bearded dragon may curl their tail when expecting food; they are on high alert, ready to hunt some bugs or dig into a fresh pile of greens.
Reason 4: Aggression
Your bearded dragon may also curl their tail when they’re feeling aggressive or territorial. While a curled tail signals to other bearded dragons (or you!) that a beardie is alert and ready to fight.
When bearded dragons feel threatened, they do a variety of things to make themselves appear big and strong. They flare their beards and open their mouths. They may also puff themselves up or turn their bodies to the side to make themselves look wider. While simply lifting the end of their tail does not really make them look a lot larger, it allows bearded dragons to show their rivals that they are strong and fit.
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures and should not be housed with other members of their species. If you are cohabitating young bearded dragons and notice signs of aggression like head-bobbing, tail lashing, or biting, separate them immediately!
Reason 5: Looking For A Mate
When squaring up against another beardie, male bearded dragons often curl their tails during courtship to show that they are strong, fit, and alert.
While it isn’t a super prominent breeding behavior, researchers have found a link between the breeding season and tail-curling in beardies. Bearded dragons curl their tails significantly more during the breeding season, indicating they can instinctually tell when their breeding season is and, they are on the alert for potential mates!
The study cited above uncovered another interesting piece of information: when bearded dragons were exposed to a low-frequency electromagnetic field, they curled their tails significantly more during a full moon, even though they couldn’t actually see the moon.
So, your bearded dragon may also curl their tail in response to various environmental conditions – even the ones that we humans cannot sense. Beardies may curl their tails in response to the season, electromagnetic fields, and even lunar cycles!
Reason 6: Thermoregulation
As we have learned, there are a variety of reasons your bearded dragon may be on high alert, causing it to curl their tail, but alertness is not the only reason for this behavior!
Bearded dragons also curl their tails upward to help regulate their body temperature, especially when they are sitting on a hot surface. Like other reptiles, beardies are cold-blooded (or ectothermic) and cannot regulate their body temperature all by themselves like mammals can.
Reptiles have to rely on the environment for heat, and so they must physically position themselves in a way that provides them with an optimal temperature, whether that means finding a good spot under a heat lamp or retreating to the shade when they get too toasty.
In another study about bearded dragon behavior, investigators found that, when encountering a heat gradient, bearded dragons often angle their tails toward a cooler area to help regulate their temperature. Therefore, a bearded dragon that is basking on a hot surface may curl their tail upwards to keep from getting too hot.
Because their environment is so crucial for dragons’ thermoregulation, ensure your pet’s habitat has adequate warm and cool areas to keep your beardie comfortable!
Bearded dragons curl their tails up not only when they are basking, but also when submerged in warm water. During their routine warm soaks, bearded dragons often curl their tails above the water.
Whether it is due to thermoregulation, simply a response to warmth, or a matter of your beardie not wanting to get their tail wet, there is no way of knowing for sure! As long as your dragon’s bathwater isn’t too hot, there is no need for you to worry if it curls their tail during their soak.
Reason 7: Running
Bearded dragons also curl their tails up when they are running, whether it be to a delicious insect or away from something scary like a potential predator.
This is likely due to alertness or excitement, as we discussed earlier. Bearded dragons lift their tails up to show a predator that they won’t be an easy meal and also to convey excitement – especially about food! However, bearded dragons also use their tail for balance!
When they run, bearded dragons are taking longer strides and move a lot faster than usual. Holding their tail up may help them maintain their balance and run faster – it has been shown that leopard geckos use their tails in a very similar way.
Reaching high speeds would be a lot more difficult with a big, heavy tail dragging the ground!
Should I Be Worried When My Bearded Dragon Is Curling Their Tail?
Tail-curling is a perfectly normal behavior in bearded dragons. If you notice your beardie curling their tail, don’t worry! It likely means that you have an alert, healthy reptile.
Bearded dragons’ tail curvature should be a gentle, natural-looking slope.
If you notice an unusual “kink” in your beardie’s tail, it may be a fracture and you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Left untreated, the injury can become infected or even cut off the blood supply to the tail!
When a bearded dragon’s tail becomes infected, it often turns black. This is a sign of tail rot and requires veterinary attention as soon as possible. The infection has the potential to spread to the rest of the body, causing even bigger problems!
To reduce the chances of fracture or other injuries to your beardie’s tail, make sure your dragon is receiving adequate nutrients, UV lighting, and proper handling.
Unfortunately, bearded dragons can’t talk. If they could, that would make beardie ownership a whole lot easier (and even more fun)!
Like other reptiles, dragons have to rely on body language to communicate whether they are alert, excited, angry, afraid, or flirty, and their tails are a huge part of that!
Curling their tail is a normal part of your bearded dragon’s behavior and is no cause for concern. It likely means they’re on high alert and is on the lookout for food, danger, or a mate, or they are comfortably basking.
However, if your beardie’s tail is bent at an unnatural angle or turning strange colors, it may be an injury or infection and you should contact your veterinarian.
Now that you know some of the reasons bearded dragons curl their tails, keep an eye out for the behavior in your own beardie.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something new about your pet!