It would be an exciting world if our pets could talk to us in a language we understand. I’m sure we’ve all wondered what goes on in our pets’ heads, but with little success can we actually deduce what they are attempting to communicate!
Leopard geckos are one of many animals that can display their emotions through both vocal and posture cues. And while they’re not known to be overly loud (rather, the opposite), they do have a handful of various sounds they “speak” from time to time: screaming, barking, clicking, and chirping.
If you’ve arrived at this article, you probably experienced a strange noise coming from your leo. After surfing the web and learning of these unique noises, you ended up asking yourself one thing: why do leopard geckos chirp?
Chirping is one of several noises that leopard geckos make. Though little research is published examining this specific behavior, it is suggested that chirping could be due to the gecko feeling threatened, stressed, hungry, from incorrect handling, or as a mating display. In some cases, it could even mean that your leo is happy!
Let’s first take a look at the handful of noises that your leo can produce and the difference between each. After comparing these to what chirping means, we will examine the scenarios that can bring about this vocal behavior as well as other signs to keep a watch out for!
What Does It Mean To Chirp?
If you’ve had your fair share of keeping a leopard gecko by now, then you’ve likely heard the various sounds that can come out of these little critters! And while these lizards aren’t especially vocal, it doesn’t mean they are mute.
But amidst the different noises that leos can produce, how can you tell what each sound means? Specifically, what does it sound like for a leopard gecko to chirp?
It can be difficult to discern which noise is actually a chirp, especially since this noise is subtle and you won’t always be around for the noise to occur!
Try to listen closely when near your leo, and compare the sounds you hear to the video above. There are a few different vocal patterns that this reptile can make such as screaming, chirping (often referred to as squeaking), clicking, and barking.
Screaming is the most notably unique since it is a loud, obvious shrill that gets released from the tiny lizard’s body! Occurring mostly in juveniles not used to humans, this noise is produced as the ultimate defensive mechanism to scare away the potential predator.
While screaming is pretty self-explanatory, barking is not what you might be thinking of (that is, if you’re thinking about a dog’s bark). It sounds similar to a scream, but instead of being continuous, the leo will let out a series of these hoarse screams in a “barking” pattern.
And clicking, much like barking, is a repetitive sequence of short noises that your reptile friend will turn to more often than barking. Think of it like a toned-down warning message, whereas barking and screaming are the last resort of defense!
Chirping is the sound that we will focus on today and try to decipher the meaning behind it. Despite varying opinions online about the exact meaning of chirps, both science, and speculation have given us a lead to find the root(s) of the sound when taking into consideration other signs.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Chirp?
So, let’s explore this unique sound!
Reason 1: They’re Feeling Threatened
When in doubt, blame fear. Yes, this can be applied to leopard geckos and may help explain why they are making these random noises!
Leopard geckos are petite lizards that have to be on constant watch for predators in the wild. And as much as we know their enclosure is a safe place void of things that will kill them, they don’t know that. That’s where chirps will start to be heard!
Any situation that could make your gecko feel threatened or scared will yield a physical, instinctual response. They want to ward off the hazard and protect themselves in the only way they know how!
Without being able to speak in a language that humans comprehend, leos will utilize their body posture and vocal adaptations.
If threatened, you’ll likely see your gecko take a threat display in tandem with chirping noises. This display consists of the leopard gecko flicking or wiggling its tail back and forth, tense limbs, and ending the event by either biting or scurrying swiftly away from the perceived danger.
Essentially, this is your leo’s last chance to startle predators away and retreat back to safety!
Witnessing this may be amusing for some, but respect that your pet is fearful of some stimulus present and work towards resolving it. If you eliminate stressors, your leopard gecko will thank you and show comfort in the way they know best: keeping calm and quiet!
Reason 2: Incorrect Handling
More often than not, juvenile leopard geckos will chirp at the event of being handled more than adult leopard geckos.
This is largely in part to adult leos being familiar with their owners and being held by them. Juveniles are still new to this world and are insecure in their environment, especially when just adopted and brought to their new home!
Baby leos will see a giant hand from an even larger “predator” and immediately fear for their lives as they still are reptiles at the end of the day. Once you go to scoop them up, chirps ensue and you may be taken aback by this.
With a baby leopard gecko, let him first settle into his new home for a few weeks before you start the bonding process. From there, take the interactions slowly and in short intervals each day. You want to limit stress wherever possible and be gentle with your new buddy!
It will be normal if your leopard gecko sends chirps the way of your hand until he gets comfortable with the interaction.
Don’t worry if your adult leo chirps at you as well when you try to pick him up; every individual is different! It’s possible that you rescued your reptile as an adult already, he just ate, is about to shed, or he is just naturally a skittish fellow that can’t seem to accept friendship with his human.
There is also a possibility that you are holding your gecko too tightly and squeezing him, creating discomfort. Or they just don’t feel like being social today!
Whether it be that your gecko is still young and afraid, naturally an introvert, or you handle too rough, if that gecko starts chirping, leave it alone! It most likely isn’t your leo making sounds of enjoyment. Give him some alone time and try again in a little bit!
Patience will reward you when it comes to handling a leopard gecko, so use those noises as a reminder to take a step back and try again later.
Reason 3: Mating Calls
If you have a sexually mature male leopard gecko at home, pay extra attention to this reason!
At roughly 18 to 24 months into a leopard gecko’s life (or once they reach a weight range of 35-40g), they become sexually mature and ready to breed. In this instance, males will make the effort to court a female in a rather humorous way.
In an attempt to entice a female, a male leopard gecko will make chirping noises and frantically shake his tail as if he were a rattlesnake!
Females will be the ones to lay low and stay quiet while the male tries to impress her. And even if you don’t have a female leopard gecko near your male, the leo may still do this during the breeding season.
A male leopard gecko will also fight other males over territory and shoot out some chirps, though you can avoid this by housing a male leopard gecko alone. Any male leo you care for should be housed independently from other geckos, especially once they reach the proper size for maturity!
Now if your leo is still a baby, it is unlikely that you will witness this “love dance” and accompanying chirps. Instead, the chirps are due to another reason, so let’s keep looking!
Reason 4: They’re Unhappy Or Stressed
Typically, leopard geckos don’t make much noise when they are happy. In fact, it is quite the opposite for most circumstances, as your leo is trying to communicate with you over something that they want to be remedied.
There are a few ways your leopard gecko could become unhappy or feel stressed.
Firstly, examine the enclosure setup. An incorrect housing layout can lead to an improper temperature gradient, humidity fluctuations, and a general feeling of insecurity and boredom.
Ensure that you have at least two hides (one made humid for shedding), some decor for enrichment, and a thermometer/hydrometer reader. This way, you’ll know that your leo is entertained and comfortable, and you can keep a watch for when heat and humidity levels need adjusting!
On the topic of enclosure setup, another stressor for your leopard gecko could be if you recently upgraded the tank to a larger size. The layout is new and unfamiliar for your leo, so it is understandable that he might feel scared of where he resides.
Even adopting a leopard gecko and introducing him to his new home is a reason for stress (and thus chirping), so don’t blame yourself! Give your leo some time alone to adjust and investigate his new abode! Once he settles, the tension and chirping should subside.
Maybe your leopard gecko is quiet in his enclosure, but he quickly becomes a frantic mess the second you bring him elsewhere!
It could be fear of their surroundings that causes them to become vocal. This will usually be in tandem with changes in body posture, and you might see some tail flicking alongside the chirps.
If you believe this is the case, gently grab your leo and put him back into his enclosure. Gradually build his confidence over time with shorter interactions, but never forcefully keep your leopard gecko out of his tank if he isn’t having it!
Anxiety comes easily to our leopard geckos, especially considering they are prey in the wild. And while it can be simple to determine that your leopard gecko is stressed, it is much harder to decide what the root of the tension is.
Note when your leopard gecko chirps, what his body posture resembles, and what stimuli are in the surrounding environment. Once you can find the cause of the discontentment, you can work towards finding a solution.
Reason 5: They’re Hungry
Have you noticed that your otherwise quiet leopard gecko becomes noisy when it is time for dinner? Maybe you’re a few hours behind schedule or your leo just finished shedding.
If that belly is empty, your leopard gecko might use chirping to let you know he wants his insects!
Hunger pangs may not be the only reason your leopard gecko is chirping at mealtime. In fact, it could be the excitement of eating some delicious insects that get him stirring in his tank!
Take notes on what is happening when you hear your leo trying to speak with you. Realizing that your gecko chirps at the sight and understanding of food should relieve some stress knowing that your leo isn’t upset or unhealthy but rather eager to eat.
I’ve sung in delight at the sight of my food arriving plenty of times, so I get it. Don’t we all audibly display our gratitude for food?
Reason 6: They’re Actually Just Happy
If there is no rhyme or reason behind these chirping noises that you can conclude, then it could just be that your leo is happy and wants to let you know!
Suggested that leopard geckos can learn to recognize their owners, your buddy might get excited just by seeing or hearing you! This is especially true if you are the sole provider of food and let your leo out of his tank to hang out with you frequently.
Once you are relaxing on your couch or bed, feeling comfortable, you may hear some random chirps from your leopard gecko. There is no known stimulus to cause stress or fear, and you’ve done this plenty of times with normal radio silence from your reptile!
Though there is minimal science to explain the feeling of contentment in a leopard gecko, longtime leopard gecko owners can attest to their friends displaying these emotions in varying ways. One of which is, yes, chirping!
It could simply be a way for leopard geckos to show they enjoy bonding with you or are interested in their surroundings. Even roaming around a remodeled enclosure can be a cause for chirping noises, as your leopard gecko is exploring his updated home!
How To Understand The Reason Behind The Chirps
Chirping can happen at random times throughout your leo’s life. Though difficult to fully comprehend what your leopard gecko is trying to tell you, gathering clues can aid in finding the reason behind this chirping sound.
Look out for any changes in eating and activity levels. Loss of appetite and lethargy are tell-tale signs that something is wrong internally with your leopard gecko and should be addressed immediately. Chirps associated with these symptoms indicate stress, fear, or sickness.
Also, keep an eye out for changes in body posture when you hear chirps coming from your leopard gecko! Their stance may remind you of being “puffed up” where their arms are tight and tall.
Tail flicking and an open mouth can signal fear and aggression as well. Since these are usually understood as signs of defense against a present threat, check to see what is triggering this in your leo.
Now, if the leopard gecko is relaxed and showing no apparent distress, then chirping could simply tie back to them being happy and comfortable where they’re at.
Just like with humans, animals communicate not only vocally, but also with gestures and posture!
Recognizing the difference between each sound that leopard geckos can make can be difficult, though not impossible with some practice!
Ultimately, there is no one right answer to why leopard geckos chirp. Mostly due to the fact that we can’t read the mind of our leos, there are also several reasons that could be causing this behavior.
Take note of what is happening at the time you hear the chirps, focusing on body movements and surrounding stimuli.
Chirping could occur from fear, stress, threats, incorrect handling, mating seasons, hunger, or being happy!
Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that our leos surprise us with their cryptic noises all the time. Hopefully, now you better understand chirps and can distinguish this sound from the others that these reptiles produce. So long as your leopard gecko is happy, there is nothing to worry about!