Saturday, October 14, 2006

The highly variable Tiger Snake

The highly variable Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus.

This is a common snake occurring across southern Australia including Tasmania and neighboring islands. Some herpetologists consider this snake to be two species with several subspecies, whilst others regard it as a single highly variable species. The snake from Western Australia is generally known as Notechis scutatus subspecies occidentalis.
It is usually a highly colorful snake reaching a maximum length of around 1.4 metres, which places it size-wise, between the Tasmanian subspecies of up to 2 metres and some SA island populations of less than 1 metre. Coloration within these populations also varies considerably, with some being completely unbanded (often regarded as a characteristic of this snake).

This variation in size can in large degree be related to the available food source, with Tasmania having a large selection of mammals and mutton birds from which to choose, whereas on the SA islands there is little other than skinks on which to prey. However, some characteristics are common to all like the flattening of the neck, which strongly signifies 'don't mess with me!'

Tiger Snake, Notechis scutatus

The WA Tiger Snake will climb trees, particularly the 6-10 metre Coastal Paperbark, Melaleuca cuticularis, which has a thick paper-bark covering of the sloping branches and trunks, permitting the snake to gain leverage. These trees also provide excellent habitat for birds to nest and it is their chicks the snakes seek. I discovered from the racket being made by a myriad of small, very concerned birds, a Tiger Snake about to take some recently hatched honeyeater chicks that were a couple of metres off the ground. The snake being disturbed by me dropped to the ground and made off. When I looked into the nest there were three chicks totally fazed with glazed eyes and apparently in a trance from the Tiger Snake's mesmerising look. Thinking they would probably recover I left them, but returned a couple of hours later, only to find an empty nest. The snake had returned and taken the lot!


Anonymous said...

Hi from Scribbly,

I shan't be commenting on any of your posts but you can be sure that I shall be visiting to appreciate your meticulously recorded observations

The tigers are beautiful


Stewart Macdonald said...

Hi Jack,

I've just stumbled across your blog. Your tiger snake pics are much better than mine!


Esperance Blog said...

Hi Guys

Thanks for your comments, always nice to know you are being read.

Hate to think of the number of photos I've taken of reptiles 95% hidden by foliage, or of a disappearing tail. Still you got some great sightings in Perth Stewart, which most would me extremely envious.

All the best