Bearded dragons get their names from the bristly spines under their throats and around their ears. Sometimes these reptiles will puff them out, making them look even more beardlike. They also have the ability to darken the areas, turning them gunmetal-gray or jet-black. The blackening has various meanings.
This Is My Turf
Bearded dragons, particularly males, are territorial. A male will display a dark beard to indicate his authority over smaller males and females in his territory. He may accomplish this with head-bobbing, which also is a dominance indicator. A black beard serves as a warning to other males to keep away from this dragon’s female. Females do not generally exhibit black beards for territorial display.
You Caught My Eye
The beards of male bearded dragons are generally larger and darker than females' beards. During the breeding season male dragons will blacken their beards during courtship. A male will start to beard up when he spots a female nearby and may accompany this with slapping a hand on the ground and bobbing his head in a jerky manner. This indicates to the female that he is aroused. If she is ready to mate, she will respond with a particular arm-waving gesture.
I’m Feeling Aggressive
Both male and female dragons will puff out and blacken their beards as a sign of aggression or to demonstrate that they wanting to be left alone. The dark beard also serves to scare away predators; it may be accompanied by hissing and a gaping mouth to make a specimen look larger and more impressive. A pet dragon will blacken the beard to show annoyance if he is being handled roughly. Always supervise children when they are handling a bearded dragon.
I Need Attention
A beard turning black can be a sign of disease, illness or stress, especially if other parts of the body turn black, too. If this happens, the beardie needs to see a veterinarian that deals with reptiles. Pet dragons will sometimes black the beard to try and get the attention of a handler, particularly if they want to come out and play. Pay attention to the body cues to understand the mood your beardie is in.