Intellagama lesueurii (AGAMIDAE) Water Dragon, Eastern Water Dragon, Maggil


Distinguishing features include crest on the nape of the neck and along backbone, laterally compressed body and tail, exposed ear, long powerful limbs. When mature olive green to brown with dark bands, dark stripe behind eye and red flush on chest. Eastern Water Dragons are very common up and down the east coast of Australia. Can be mistakenly indentified as Tommy Roundhead when juvenile, when the crest is not so obvious.

Photo: Mark Crocker

Extreme Close-up

Up this close and with this expression you can see something of its ancestors. Larger specimens have a strong bite and sharp claws – they don’t make good pets. A Water Dragon can be held with gloves by expert animal handlers, and will usually calm down until it is freed, when it will scurry off, running rapidly. Its body sways as it runs, due to the swimming motion of the tail. Male Water Dragons will sometimes fight each other for territories, standing on their hind legs in an attempt to push the other over on to its back. Males defend a territory and a harem of females, carrying out an impressive series of head bobs and arm waves to discourage other intruding males. The females lay around a dozen eggs in an excavated hole in sandy soil above the floodline. These will hatch in approximately three months. The young are miniature replicas of the adults and are able to fend for themselves as soon as they hatch.
Photo: Mark Crocker

A Well-behaved Dragon

A fine young lizard and one prepared to sit for the camera pretty much endlessly. One of the winner species in urbanisation — it does well on scraps in reverside parks. Large colonies can be seen along South Bank, South Brisbane. The tongues of water dragons are similar in shape to our tongues, in that they are thick and wide, but their tongues end in a very small fork. The tongue has a sticky surface that helps them to catch and hold their prey. Their teeth are small and pointed- the better to eat a omnivorous diet. A very small round shiny spot located at the top of the head, between their eyes, is thought to help water dragons sense differences in light.
Photo: Mark Crocker

Mature Male

This photo demonstrates two features of the Water Dragons. Firstly, the stronger colouration, more prominent crests and reddish chest colouring of the mature males, and secondly how much they are at home in urban situations. This one was on a wall in South Brisbane. They are very common in the Queensland Art Gallery cafe garden.

Photo: Michael Oliver


The dragons become active and bold during October. They are frequently seen positioned at vantage points ready to grab morsels flying past.
Photo: Robert Whyte

Adult Male

Water Dragons readily take to water if approached in the wild, sometimes dropping from overhanging branches. May be quite unafraid if handy escape routes are nearby. Water Dragons are powerful swimmers, and can stay underwater for long periods (normally up to half an hour). Steve Wilson in Reptiles of Queensland reports some have been observed sleeping underwater.
Photo: Robert Whyte

Adult Male Showing Red Chest

Distinguishing features include a crest along the nape of the neck and down the backbone. Body and tail are laterally compressed, useful for swimming. The ear is exposed. They have long, powerful limbs. Mature dragons are olive green to brown with dark bands. There is a dark stripe behond the eye and a red flush on the chest, more pronounced in males, which are bigger, more strongly coloured and have stronger crests and heavier jowls than the females.
Photo: Robert Whyte

Dragon at Roma Street Parklands

Photo of a Water Dragon at Roma St Parkland Wednesday.
Photo: Mark Crocker