bird snakes, La serpiente mica pajarera

NEOTROPICAL BIRD SNAKES IMPRESSIVE EGG THIEVES

By Roel De Plecker

You can find the neotropical bird snakes or bird-eating snakes (Phrynonax poecilonotus) in the Costa Ballena. They are non-venomous snakes that are active during the day and forage all kinds of habitats, ranging from forests to villages.

They are agile snakes that can be seen on the ground or even climbing trees, and they sure can be fast doing so. Threatened bird snakes can have very impressive defensive displays; they will vibrate their tail tips, puff up their necks, flatten their heads, lift the fronts of their bodies and open their mouths widely!

If this isn’t enough, they will strike at the aggressor! These snakes are robust and can reach lengths over 2 meters, so a bite of a snake this size can be painful. Luckily for us, they don’t have fangs that inject venom, but they do have teeth, referred to as aglyphous dentition.

Bird snakes come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, their dorsal ground colors can be pale to dark green, grey, brown, or even black, and the patterns can be red, orange, yellow, even blue dots or bands. Some are even blue with red bands! Their belly scales are mostly light-colored like gray, cream, some also yellow or reddish. Juveniles tend to be more brightly marked and mostly have V-shaped crossbands.

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The hatchlings are mostly seen between January and May when they leave the egg after a 4 to 5 month incubation period. Bird snakes or bird-eating snakes, like their name reveals, are predators of birds, but they also are known to eat bats, lizards, and small mammals. However, their preference goes to birds and their eggs.

bIRD snakes sometimes steal eggs in henhouses! It is incredible how they can swallow chicken eggs whole; you can see the egg go down to their stomachs! You can see how flexible the snake’s jaws and snakeskin are. After a few days, the snakes regurgitate the eggshell. If you are lucky, you might be able to witness this astonishing feeding process when visiting us at Parque Reptilandia!

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