Facts on Paradise Flying Snakes

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The paradise flying snake, also called the paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) is one of five species in the Chrysopelea flying snake genus. All of these snakes are colubrid snakes native to South and Southeast Asia. The paradise tree snake can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, parts of the Philippines, Singapore and southern Thailand.

Size and Appearance

Paradise flying snakes are some of the smaller snakes in the genus, reaching a maximum length of about 4 feet. Adults have long tails and slender bodies that they flatten out when they glide from tree to tree. Most have yellow scales on their backs that are framed with black edges, and some may also have a stripe of red scales running down their back, or a patch of red scales at their head. Adults have solid bright yellow scales on their bellies.

Habitat

Paradise flying snakes are arboreal and rarely descend from the high canopy of trees. They live in a variety of habitats, from the densest jungles to secondary forests and even parks and gardens. In Singapore, they have a notable preference for the tops of coconut palms. While best known for their aerodynamic gliding through the air from tree to tree, they are also skillful climbers.

Taking Flight

Despite their names, paradise flying snakes -- much like flying squirrels -- actually glide through the air rather than fly like birds. They wrap their tails around a branch and dangle off, flattening their bodies and then launching themselves towards the ground. Once aloft, they undulate their bodies as though slithering through the air, tilting up and holding their head and the front of their bodies relatively still. They glide quickly, at speeds of between 26 and 33 feet per second. Paradise flying snakes are among the smallest of their genus, yet they are some of the best gliders and can travel as far as 330 feet through the air.

Diet and Behavior

Because studies have focused on their unique flying ability, not much is known about the behavior of flying snakes in the wild. Paradise flying snakes are most active during the day, hunting the tree-dwelling lizards that are their main food source. They also eat rodents, frogs and birds. Fixed rear fangs do dispense venom, but it is only strong enough to immobilize the small animals the snakes eat and is harmless to humans.

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Author

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.