Usually the Tree Agamas in our garden appear to be peaceful, even in the breeding season. But this week I witnessed a prolonged duelling match that turned quite violent at times between two competing males.
We have wired a section of log that hosts an exotic orchid to the corner of our fenced-in veggie garden. The previous day I had seen a female Tree Agama looking rather fetching against the flowers. I then noticed a male lower down on the log bobbing his bright blue head. When it started its head-bobbing display the female decide to leave and scuttled off over the shade-cloth “roof” of our veggie garden.
The female Tree Agama looking beautiful among the orchid flowers. The next day I discovered that she had not one suitor but two
Even though I knew that courtship was in the air, I did not expect it to involve violent competition between two rival male Tree Agamas (also known as Blue-headed Lizards). When I first noticed the two males eye-balling each other on the orchid log, neither of them were displaying the bright blue colour on their heads characteristic of the breeding season. Interestingly, at intervals during their encounters they would flush blue for a few minutes and then it would fade to the more usual camouflage colours, similar to the colours of the female.
When I first saw the two males starting to threaten each other, the female was lower down on the log, but after things turned violent she scuttled off out of harm’s way
This was the first fight that I witnessed. The objective seemed to be to grab the tail or a leg of the rival, which they both did, clamping their jaws on their opponent until one or both of them tumbled to the ground. Immediately after falling they would climb back up and threaten each other anew
One of the male Agamas would always climb back to the top of the log. The other would either threaten him from below, as in this picture, or climb up above and launch an attack from the “roof” of the veggie gardens. Sometimes his approach would be swift and other times slow but still threatening
The Agama on the roof is running along at speed prior to descending the pole to threaten his opponent who is standing his ground on top of the log.
Here he comes down the pole. His opponent has changed his colour and his head is now bright blue, but it soon faded back to the usual camouflage colouration
The threats, including audible hissing and huffing sounds, soon escalated into a full-scale fight
The battle is on and each tries to grab or bite the base of the other’s tail
The violent grappling led to the one Agama losing his balance and then his footing and falling to the ground. Undaunted, he soon climbed back up the wire mesh and onto the roof. This pattern of threatening, then fighting resulting in one or both of them falling, then climbing back up and starting over happened several times while I was watching
I think it was always the same individual who returned to the top of the log. His foe seemed to be weakening and he aborted some of his attacks from the roof, and here he is turning around to return to the roof, intimidated by his opponent posturing and huffing aggressively
The Agama on top of the log seemed to sense that his adversary was weakening, and for the first time he launched an attack first, climbing swiftly up to the roof. Both Agamas are sporting blue heads for this final encounter
The attack is launched suddenly and aggressively from below, undaunted by the defensive hissing of the one on the roof
During the ensuing tussle that involved mutual tail biting, the one manages to toss the other sideways while grasping the end of the tail. Both Agamas started off with intact tails, but by this stage both had visible bite damage to the ends of their tails
The tussle continues, each biting and holding the other’s tail
As their expressions show, these guys mean business. It is nearly and hour since I first saw them fighting and they seem exhausted but no less determined
I did not have a clear view of the last fight, only seeing the occasional flurry of a blurry figure being thrown up or jumping in the air. The final fight went on for some time and then one of them suddenly retreated. It was over
The victor maintained his prominent position on the edge of the roof. He was breathing heavily from all the exertion of fighting, but he seemed to relish his victory. After a few minutes his head started flushing blue
The proud victor sporting his full breeding colours in a snapshot from one of the video clips I shot of the encounter. See the video below.
Hopefully both Agamas survived the bruising contest and are able to continue with their lives more peacefully in the future. And, having won rights to the territory, perhaps the victor will reunite with the object of his affections.
Posted by Carol