Slaty-grey & Keelback

Almost an elapid-like face, look carefully to see the pupil

The slaty-grey (Stegonotus cucullatus) is medium-sized colubrid reaching up to 1.25 meters in length. At first glance it has an inconspicuous dull gray coloration, but under bright light the deep brown dorsum, yellow lateral hues and contrasting white underbelly are revealed. In the monsoon forest this species can be frequently encountered foraging in the leaf litter. Slaty-greys are nocturnal and have a diverse diet, feeding on frogs, sleeping agamids such as Diporiphora spp. and Amphibolurus spp., reptile eggs, small mammals, and fish. They are an inoffensive species and quick to flee, but when restrained they are defensive, readily bite, and produce an unpleasant odor.

Photographed after pursuit [3] unless otherwise stated


So far I’ve seen three types of defensive displays in slaty-greys. The first, and most common, is flipping of the body in a random direction accompanied by a short hiss. After one or several flips the snake often remains motionless momentarily before resuming its escape. The second reminds me of the defensive display in tree snakes Boiga spp.. It involves recoiling of the head into an S-shape and coiling of the body into more of an elliptical shape. However, unlike Boiga I have not had slaty-greys strike defensively at me. The last, and most infrequent, is elevation of the front third of the body off the ground. I’ve only experienced this with a single slaty-grey, and of the five times it elevated its head to appear larger, it only directed the display at me once.

Note the hidden ant!
Injured tail end of a slaty-grey; photographed after disturbance [4]
Defensive display of another colubrid at Fogg Dam, a keelback (Tropidonophis mairii)

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