wild bearded dragon South Australia by Haydyn Bromley

What Do Bearded Dragons in the Wild Live On?

The most popular bearded dragons kept as pets live naturally in the wild in all Australian states and territories except Tasmania. Bearded dragons in the wild live on a wide range of habitats such as scrublands, woodlands and desert.

Map showing the distribution of where bearded dragons live in the wild
Map showing the distribution of where bearded dragons live in the wild. 3 species represented are Pogona barbata (blue dots), Pogona vitticeps (red dots), Pogona minor (green dots) distribution in Australia

Where can you find bearded dragons in the wild? In the map above you can see that bearded dragons can be found in the wild in the vast majority of Australia. The wide ranging distribution of the Pogona minor, Pogona barbata and Pogona vitticeps covers many different landscapes.

Where do bearded dragons live in the wild?

Here are where 4 species of bearded dragons live in the wild being:

  • Pogona vitticeps
  • Pogona minor
  • Pogona barbata
  • Pogona henrylawsoni

1. Pogona vitticeps – Central or Inland Bearded Dragon

The Pogona vitticeps, the most popular of pet bearded dragons outside of Australia, is spread among varying landscapes. It is particularly concentrated in arid and semi-arid areas. Some of the land has trees, some bushes and some is quite flat with only grasses dispersed across the landscape. Turner and Valentic (n.d.) described some of the habitat they observed the wild Pogona vitticeps in as without trees, some shrubs and lots of grasses such as Mitchell Grass.

One of the many locations bearded dragons live in the wild. Walpeup Australia
Bearded dragons in the wild live on a vast range of habitats. This picture shows land that the Pogona vitticeps lives on at Walpeup, Victoria, Australia. Image from Google Maps.

The map and picture above show Walpeup, Victoria, Australia. Walpeup is one of many examples of lands that bearded dragons in the wild live in. Smith et al (2016) documented what this land looked like in research which required the temporary removal of some Pogona vitticeps from the wild. Much of the land is cleared for farming but some natural bush remains. Smith et al (2016) described the land as semi-arid mallee woodland with a lot of silver emu bush (aka Broom Bush or Scotia Bush (Eremophila scoparia)) and blue-leaved mallee (Eucalyptus polybractea) trees.

Bearded dragon in the wild at Gluepot photo by Ron Knight
Bearded dragon in the wild at Glupot. Photo taken by Ron Knight on Flickr.

2. Pogona minor – Dwarf Bearded Dragon

Pianka (2005) documented the land of he observed the Pogona minor on in Australia’s Great Victoria Desert (Western Australia). Pianka (2005) describes the environment as being mainly red sands with some vegetation such as spinifex (Triodia), gum trees (including Eucalyptus gongylocarpa), Eremophila, Grevillea, Hakea and Thryptomene along with the red sands. Wetter areas also had mulga trees (Acacia aneura) and Lindley’s saltbush (Atriplex lindleyi).

Bearded dragon desert habitat in the wild
An example of the habitat of bearded dragons in the wild, specifically Pogona minor). This is desert country at the Serpentine Lakes, South Australia. Great Victoria Desert near the Western Australian border. In the drier areas of the desert there is less vegetation. This a very small view of a very large desert that the Pogona minor has been observed in. Image by Marian Deschain Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Although the Pogona minor is small, it travels quite some distance most days. Thompson and Thompson (2003) studied the Pogona minor near Ora Banda in Western Australia. They observed the Pogona minor often travelling over 100 meters a day in distance. These wild bearded dragons travelled extensively across land stopping to forage or bask in bushes such as saltbush (Atriplex spp) and bluebush (Maireana spp).

The Pogona minor are semi arboreal like other Pogona species so they use the ground and the trees and bushes. They have been noted to seek shelter in the heat of the day at a meter or more off the ground (Pianka 2005).

Wild pogona minor bearded dragons live in bushlands
Wild bearded dragons (Pogona minor) live in populated areas like this Perth bushland.

The Perth bushland in the image above is just one of the many example of areas bearded dragons in the wild live, in this instance specifically the Pogona minor.

3. Pogona barbata – Eastern or Common Bearded Dragon

The Pogona barbata is one of the bearded dragons that lives in multiple states of Australia over a range of different environments.

wild bearded dragon resting on tree
Wild bearded dragon resting on a tree in scrub land near a part in Eden Hills. Jim (Flickr)

Wotherspoon (2007) studied the Pogona barbata in the woodlands of the Cumberland Plain near Sydney, New South Wales. The bearded dragons in the Cumberland Plain lived among many gums (including Eucalyptus moluccana, Eucalyptus fibrosa and Eucalyptus sclerophylla) with bushes and ground cover. Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and certainly in this area described the Pogona barbata spends a lot of time up in the trees basking and staying safe.

Lands the wild Pogona barbata are known to live in
Cumberland Plain woodland where Wotherspoon (2007) studied the Pogona barbata in its natural habitat. Kookaburradreaming [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Within the Northern Wheatbelt of New South Wales both the Pogona vitticeps and the Pogona barbata have been classified as woodland generalists with some reliance on the presence of trees for their habitat (Ellis, 2005).

4. Pogona henrylawsoni – Black Soil Bearded Dragons

Turner and Valentic (n.d.) observed 14 wild Pogona henrylawsoni (Black Soil Bearded Dragons) in October 1996 near Winton, Queensland.

As a matter of interest, October in Australia is late spring. In the middle of Queensland where the sightings of Pogona henrylawsoni were made by Turner and Valentic (n.d.), it is subtropical and hot.

Six of the wild bearded dragons were sighted in the late afternoon between the hours of 16:56 and 17:51. At that time, all were basking in full sun 37.0°C (98.6°F), with a relative humidity of 31%, on a rock or on bitumen road. They found an additional wild bearded dragon dead on the road. Wild bearded dragons are often run over by cars as they seek to soak up the sun on the roads.

wild bearded dragons basking on road
Some wild bearded dragons are run over as they bask on the roads soaking up the heat. Alan & Flora Bottign (Flickr).

In the morning between the hours of 09:42 and 10:39, temperatures ranged from 29.0°C (84.2°F) to 35.0°C (95°F). At this time of day 5 wild bearded dragons were found basking on rocks.

Between 11:34 and 12:28, temperatures ranged from 36.8°C (98.24°F) to 38.9°C (102°F), 2 were found propped up or perched on shrubs.

Winton QLD habitat of the wild Pogona henrylawsoni bearded dragon.
Some of the natural habitat of the Pogona henrylawsoni. View from the side of Landsborough Highway, Winton QLD. This image is taken near water where there is more vegetation. Other areas are sparse and much of what would have been natural has been cleared for farming. Image from Google Maps.

The picture above is an example of some of where you can find bearded dragons in the wild such as in Turner and Valentic (n.d.) records described above. In this area the trees are sparse but there is lower level vegetation. A lot of area has been cleared for farmland.

Where Can You Find Bearded Dragons in the Wild?

Specifically where you can find bearded dragons in the wild has been described above and far too vast to condense further. While the bearded dragon is typically tagged as a desert reptile, it is clear that it is far more wide spread into many different habitats ranging across much of Australia.

Bringing the Wild Bearded Dragon Habitat to Pets

To provide your pet a more natural environment you can bring in some of the elements described in the wild bearded dragons habitat discussed above. This is applicable to both accessories and substrates.

There is a common question around what is a natural substrate for bearded dragons. We can see that while bearded dragons live on sand, taking that one element out of the entire environment and calling that natural is not very holistic.

If we translate the best accessories and substrate for bearded dragons from their natural environment it would likely include upright branches, rocks, digging areas and perhaps some leaf litter or logs to hide in and around. This would also help to provide branches for their natural semi arboreal behaviour, they like to climb. Some bearded dragons will even spend winter brumating in the trees.

For more on substrates see the post how to choose the best substrate.

What do Bearded Dragons live on in the wild?

One of the many locations bearded dragons live in the wild. Walpeup Australia

Bearded dragons live on many elements in the wild. Bearded dragons are able to use a wide range of habitat which determines what they live on. Leaf litter, fallen branches, tall trees or short bushes, rocks and sand are all potential areas a bearded dragon lives on in the wild.

Do bearded dragons live on sand in the wild?

Wild Pogona minor minor bearded dragon in Western Australia

Bearded dragons can live on sand, but they are not limited to it. Bearded dragons use many elements of their environment including sand, rocks, bushes and trees. Man made or natural, bearded dragons will use surfaces and substrates available to them to take care of their needs.

Where do bearded dragons hide in the wild?

Wild pogona minor bearded dragons live in bushlands

Bearded dragons in the wild will use their environment to hide in. What they have available to hide in will depend on what sort of area they live in such as arid desert lands or woodlands. They may hide in trees, under leaf litter and fallen branches, between rocks and anywhere else available to them.

References

  • Ellis, M. (2005) A Classification of the Native Vertebrate Species of the Northern Wheatbelt of New South Wales. National Parks and Wildlife Services. Department of Environment and Conservation. New South Wales.
  • Pianka, E. R. (2005) The ecology and natural history of the dwarf bearded dragon Pogona minor in the Great Victoria Desert Australia Draco, 6(N): 63-66 Nr 22.
  • Smith, K. R., Cadena, V., Endler, J. A., Porter, W. P., Kearney, M. R., and Stuart-Fox, D. (June, 2016) Colour change on different body regions provides thermal and signalling advantages in bearded dragon lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Vol 283(1832): 15 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.0626
  • Thompson S. A., and Thompson G. G. (2003) The western bearded dragon, Pogona minor (Squamata: Agamidae): An early lizard coloniser of rehabilitated areas. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 86:1-6
  • Turner, G. and Valentic, R. (date unknown) Notes on the occurrence and habits of the Downs Bearded Dragon Pogona henrylawsoni (Wells & Wellington, 1985). Accessed Aug 2019 http://www.gondwanareptileproductions.com/pogonaarticle.html
  • Wotherspoon, D. (2007) Ecology and Management of Eastern Bearded Dragon Pogona barbata. Western Sydney University Thesis Collection
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