It isn’t an easy task to differentiate male and female bearded dragons when they are youngsters. The job is easier when they enter adulthood and distinct characteristics emerge. When compared to an adult female, an adult male bearded dragon has a bigger head and a thicker tail. The male bearded dragon also can be identified by a pair of bumps beneath its tail, at the base of the appendage. A female may have a single bump, or she may have no bump at all.
A male bearded dragon also will show specific characteristics when it is preparing to mate. He may move his head in a repeated up and down motion to show off his masculinity in front of either a female, to impress her, or in front of another male to intimidate him away from his female conquest. A male will also exhibit the behavior for which the reptile is named: His neck will expand, giving him a fierce bearded look, and it also can change color, becoming darker. If he’s feeling especially aggressive, he may also open his jaws and accompany the movement with a hiss. Females have been known to inflate the neck area also, but the males do it more frequently, either during mating or to show aggression.
Both sexes can exhibit certain other behaviors as signs of submission. These behaviors include waving their small forelegs, often in response to a dominant male bearded dragon who is nodding his head up and down, to submit to the other’s dominance. Both sexes also will raise the tail over their backs in a curve, the point facing the front of their bodies, to exhibit a keen interest and alertness. A raised and curved tail is a sign of good health, and it can mean a female is receptive to a male’s advances, or it could simply mean the bearded dragon has spotted something of interest, such as a meal.
Bearded dragons have distinct personalities, much like other beloved house pets. Some of the bearded dragons have been known to nod their heads slowly up and down in greeting when their owners approach. The motion is similar to when the bearded dragon is posturing for a female or trying to scare off a rival, but it is performed more slowly.