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How Do Bearded Dragons See?

You may be an experienced dragon owner, or you may be delighting in your first one. After a time, owners normally start to wonder about certain things, such as why beardies do some things and how their bodies work. Have you ever wondered how bearded dragons see?

Bearded dragons have their eyes positioned on the sides of their heads. While this may seem to limit their vision and make it harder to see where they are going, they actually have a wider range of vision than if they had their eyes at the front of their heads. In essence, they have a wider range of vision than you do.

Can Bearded Dragons See in Front of Them?

Beardies cannot only see in front of them, but the placement of their eyes allows them to see almost forwards and over their shoulders at the same time.

Having a wide range of vision is essential for a beardie to keep himself out of harm’s way, and also to help him catch prey. Remember that in the wild, dragons eat mostly live prey. To do this, they have to stay still enough to keep from being a threat to their food insects until the prey gets close enough to catch, especially with flying insects.

They would be spotted and avoided easily if they had to keep turning their heads to see what was around. Fortunately, they only have to move their eyes to get a good idea of their surroundings.

This vision also helps them in captivity. Food insects you give your dragon will often try to hide in or under anything they can find. Your dragon is able to see them and hunt them down.

However, dragons do have a somewhat limited focus right in front of them. To counteract this, they will tilt their heads to position their eyes for better sight in a particular direction. Some beardies are even reported to have watched an airplane flying overhead.

If you feed your dragon insects by offering them using tweezers, try putting them a bit to one side or the other and not directly in front of them. This will help him see the insects more easily.

Can Bearded Dragons See Colors?

Beardies can actually see a larger color spectrum than humans can. This is because human eyes use three cones at the back of the eyes to detect light. While investigating how bearded dragons see (along with other reptiles), scientists have discovered that some reptiles including dragons have eyes using four cones, allowing them to see more color.

While there seems to be no clear-cut consensus on the number of colors this extra cone allows these reptiles to see, one thing is certain. Bearded dragons can see UV light.

One indicator that they can see colors is the fact that they can and do change their own colors in a certain way to indicate various moods. For instance, an upset or angry dragon will turn his beard black.

If you put two males together in one enclosure, you may well see this change, as another male is usually viewed as a threat. This color change is sending a “watch it” message to the other dragon, so the dragons have to be able to see the change.

How Far Away Can Bearded Dragons See?

In investigating how bearded dragons see, there have been no real statistics on this matter. Basically, beardies can see as far as is needed to catch their food and stay out of trouble. Most beardies can see across a room, as evidenced by owners putting a prey insect at one end and the dragon at the other as a test.

Like most animals that eat live prey, they probably are very good at detecting motion of any kind. This alerts them to the presence of a possible food insect and also possible threats.

However, dragons are not very good at judging distance or objects. Some have been known to miss a perch when climbing. Beardies do love to climb and should have some kind of object such as driftwood or others to help them get their exercise.

Care should be taken to make sure that anything with branches or perches has them relatively close together. Your beardie shouldn’t have to stretch too far to reach the next perch, or he may miss.

This is why it’s especially important to keep an eye on him if you take him outside. It’s also wise not to crowd his enclosure with too many accessories to allow him to see what’s actually there. He needs space for exercise as well.

Can Bearded Dragons See in the Dark?

Bearded dragons can’t really see in the dark very well. Since they are diurnal animals, meaning that they are active during the day while sleeping at night, they don’t really need to. The parietal eye still can sense some changes in the light at night, but this really isn’t needed. Your beardie needs to get his beauty sleep at night to be healthy.

Do Bearded Dragons Have a Third Eye?

Bearded dragons actually do have a sort of third eye. It’s a grey spot located at the top of their heads between their eyes. It’s rather hard to see, but it’s there if you look for it. It’s not actually an eye, in that it doesn’t really have sight. It’s made only to sense changes in light. It’s especially good for detecting shadows.

This is important in the wild, as bearded dragons are prey to some animals. This shadow detection helps a dragon to know if a raptor is swooping down to pick him up and allows him enough lead time to hide or at least run.

This eye has no iris, but it does have a lens and a retina. It works much the same as if you were to close your eyes in a well-lighted room and then move a hand in front of them. You can tell that the light in front of your eyes has been blocked. The third, or parietal eye of a dragon works in the same way but more efficiently.

This is why owners with enclosures that open from the top may find their dragon acting skittish or even hissing when the owner reaches into the enclosure. The dragon senses the motion by the change in light and reacts much the same way as he would with a potential predator.

To keep from startling your dragon when you reach into his enclosure, many owners opt for enclosures with openings in the front. If yours happens to open from the top, try to remember to reach in at a distance so he can see and recognize what’s coming down. Try to avoid reaching in from right above him and he won’t be as likely to react.

The eye also lets a dragon sense gradual changes in light. This is useful for things such as sensing when it is going to get dark soon, telling the dragon he needs to head back to his nighttime hideout. This is why a pet dragon should not have his daytime lights on all the time. He needs a dark night just as most creatures do.

A startling possibility is that this third eye can actually help the dragon with navigation. Two scientists conducted an experiment for this, not using bearded dragons but another reptile also equipped with a parietal eye.

They released the reptiles a certain distance from their territory, one group with the parietal eye blocked and the other normal. The normal subjects found their way home fairly easily, while the ones whose parietal eye was blocked took over two days to make it.

The third eye is well protected by a covering. If you like to pet your dragon on the head, you don’t have to worry that you will harm this eye as long as you are gentle, which you should be in handling your dragon anyway.

What Foods Will Help Bearded Dragons See Better?

Basically, a proper diet will help your bearded dragon’s eyes stay healthy and enable him to see better. This means getting the proper number of essential vitamins. This is why a good vitamin supplement formulated for bearded dragons or reptiles should be given on a regular basis.

The needed calcium and Vitamin D3 supplements are vital for growing dragons in forming good, strong bones and muscles, but also help their eyes. Offering dark greens as part of their plant food is a good way to help them get the nutrients they need. Check out my article Should I Be Giving My Bearded Dragon Vitamins? for more information on vitamin’s.

Dragon diets change greatly as they age. Babies and young juveniles generally require a diet that is 75-80 percent insects and 20-25 percent plant foods. This should gradually be adjusted as they reach later stages until the diet is switched completely around, being 75-80 percent plant foods and 20-25 insects at adulthood, which is usually thought of as being one year of age. Here’s my complete feeding guide… What to Feed a Bearded Dragon [The Complete Guide].

Having the proper lighting is important for a dragon’s eyes. Without the proper basking temperatures, he’ll have trouble digesting his food properly and won’t be able to absorb the nutrients as well. The UVB light that should be provided is essential for helping him absorb Vitamin D3. Without the proper diet and lighting, a dragon’s health will suffer, and his eyes along with it.

Conclusion

If you’re wondering, yes, your beardie can both see you and recognize you. He also will know a stranger when he sees one. Remember to be a little sensitive to how bearded dragons see and to their natural adverse reactions from something coming down from above.

Don’t reach into his enclosure from right above him and you won’t alarm him. Now that you know something about how bearded dragons see, you’ll be better able to appreciate how he can chase his insects and enjoy him more.