La Lora

Parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla)

A flash of green in the mud under vegetation and all was still. I carefully stepped in and around the understory brush while keeping an eye out for anything fleeing in my periphery, but there was movement to be seen. Although snakes can slip away in an instant, this time I was certain it was somewhere watching me, confident in its leafy cryptic appearance. After several minutes passed, in stubbornness and disbelief, I sat down to get a different perspective on the situation. Lo and behold, lining the trunk of the palm was the slender green body of a parrot snake (Leptophis ahaetulla), in Spanish called la lora. Its scales were demarcated by thin black margins, and I gazed up to see its anterior body outstretched under rays of sunlight. Eventually the snake began moving slowly and steadily, stopping abruptly every time I made a movement too noticeable, and in time it allowed me to approach closely, persistent in its choice of antipredator strategy. Like sipos (Chironius sp.), parrot snakes are highly visually-oriented snakes with large bulging eyes, though they are opposite from one another in coloration and method of evasion. Leptophis can be similarly rapid when exposed on the forest floor, but immediately shift their desires when up in the trees. Only when grabbed directly, will they initiate a defensive display— gaping the mouth widely for intimidation. It’s always been unclear to me whether parrot snakes get their common name from their open mouth display, which can be likened to a parrot’s propensity to speak. A more likely possibility is just because of their deep green color.

L. ahaetulla photographed after pursuit [3], L. nebulosus after disturbance [4]

Mealy parrot (Amazona farinosa); photographed in situ [1]
After I interrupted its morning bask, this clouded parrot snake (Leptophis nebulosus) fled upwards into the aerial roots of a walking palm (Socratea exhorriza). Funnily enough, the first time I encountered this species many years ago, it also escaped into the thorny legs of the same plant— definitely a déjà vu.

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