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What Is an Egg-Eater Snake?

By K. K. Lowen
Updated May 21, 2024
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An egg-eater snake may belong to one of six separate species of snake. The type of snake that eats only eggs are referred to as either African egg-eaters or Indian egg-eaters. Africa egg-eater snakes, grouped together in the genus Dasypeltis, live all over the African continent and are not venomous. Indian egg-eater snakes, formally known as the genus Elachistodon, are far less common than their African counterparts and live in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Several different species make up the group of egg-eater snakes in Africa, and each of the species differ greatly in size, appearance, and color. The length of the snakes can range from under one foot (30.48 cm) to over three feet (91.44 cm). Coloration may vary from black to brown to green, with any degree of blending of the shades. The patterns on their scales are also very diverse, but snakes that live in certain places usually have some measure of similarity in appearance.

Each species of African egg-eater snake typically live in wooded locations which are also inhabited by many kinds of birds. The snakes require the presence of birds because they eat only eggs. Egg-eater snakes have developed a very keen sense of smell that allows them to detect whether an egg is safe to eat or rotten.

An African egg-eater snake can consume eggs that are very large when compared to the size of its body. It has a mouth and neck that can expand greatly to accommodate big eggs. The toothless snakes puts its mouth around an egg, force it down the throat, and presses the egg against the bony bumps on the back of its spine to crack the shell. After cracking the shell, the snakes empty the liquid contents of the egg and spit out the shell.

The Indian egg-eater snake is usually black or brown but may contain specks of blue. Egg-eaters are nocturnal, which may aid them in stealing eggs. Like its more widespread African counterpart, an Indian egg-eater snake also has a bony protrusion on its backbone that helps crack eggs.

Some people like to keep egg-eater snakes as pets because they generally have a calm disposition and have no teeth, eliminating the fear of being bitten. An egg-eater snake requires special care because of its unique diet. Snake owners should find out what kinds of eggs the snake will eat and how often to feed them. People that want to keep an egg-eater snake as a pet should also research the correct environment and appropriate habitat temperatures to ensure the reptile’s health and survival.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is an egg-eater snake?

An egg-eater snake is a non-venomous snake that specializes in feeding exclusively on eggs. These snakes belong to the genus Dasypeltis and are found primarily in Africa. They have adapted to consume eggs by having a spine on their vertebrae to crack the egg once swallowed, allowing them to consume the nutritious contents and expel the shell.

How does an egg-eater snake consume eggs without teeth?

Egg-eater snakes lack teeth, which is unusual for a snake. Instead, they have highly flexible jaws that enable them to swallow eggs whole. Inside their throat, they possess specialized bony protrusions that puncture the egg, allowing the snake to squeeze out the contents and then regurgitate the indigestible shell.

Are egg-eater snakes dangerous to humans?

Egg-eater snakes pose no danger to humans as they are non-venomous and have no teeth to bite with. They are often considered beneficial as they can help control bird populations without posing a threat to humans or livestock. Their docile nature makes them a low-risk encounter in the wild.

What habitats do egg-eater snakes prefer?

Egg-eater snakes are typically found in a variety of habitats across Africa, including savannas, forests, and even semi-deserts. They tend to reside in areas where there is an abundance of bird life, as this ensures a steady supply of eggs for their diet. They are adept at climbing trees and shrubs in search of bird nests.

How can you identify an egg-eater snake?

Identifying an egg-eater snake involves looking for certain characteristics such as a slender body, a distinct head shape, and the absence of teeth. They often have a brown or grey coloration with patterns that can provide camouflage among leaves and branches. Their behavior of mimicking venomous snakes can also be a clue to their identity.

What is the conservation status of egg-eater snakes?

The conservation status of egg-eater snakes varies depending on the species. However, many species are not currently considered endangered. They are relatively common in their natural habitats and do not face significant threats. However, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade can impact certain populations, so monitoring is essential for their continued survival.

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Discussion Comments

By ZipLine — On Jul 14, 2014

@turquoise-- Yes, they can climb trees. They're very good at that. These birds don't feed constantly. They feed during breeding season and then hide away until breeding season comes again. So they are not hanging out on trees all year. They go up and eat the eggs and then leave.

A friend of mine has a pet egg eater snake. She's very happy with him. Since this snake doesn't have teeth and only eats bird eggs, they are one of the easiest snake pets to take care of. My friend says that this type of snake is also very calm and adaptive.

I'm scared of snakes, so I wouldn't be able to keep one at home even if he doesn't have teeth! I have purchased fresh quail eggs and dropped them off at my friend's house though. I don't mind helping that way!

By turquoise — On Jul 13, 2014

My teacher taught us about this snake. She also showed a picture of an egg eater snake with an egg in its mouth. I couldn't believe how wide the snake's mouth was.

There is just one thing I don't understand. How do these snakes get to the eggs? Can they climb trees?

By literally45 — On Jul 13, 2014

I thought it was strange that there is a snake called an "egg eater snake" because most snakes do eat eggs. So this snake "only" eats eggs? That's interesting.

It might actually be an issue if the birds that supply the eggs for these snakes reduce in number or disappear for some reason. Since the snakes eat nothing else, their survival will be at risk a well.

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