Red-Bellied Black Snake

Pseudechis porphyriacus

Last updated: April 21, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Ken Griffiths/

These snakes give birth to live, nine-inch offspring, rather than laying eggs.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Pseudechis porphyriacus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Conservation Status

Red-Bellied Black Snake Locations

Red-Bellied Black Snake Locations

Red-Bellied Black Snake Facts

Lizards, fish, frogs, and other snakes
Name Of Young
Neonates or snakelets
Fun Fact
These snakes give birth to live, nine-inch offspring, rather than laying eggs.
Estimated Population Size
Biggest Threat
The cane toad, whose venom is toxic to red-bellied black snakes.
Most Distinctive Feature
The top part of its body is a shiny solid black, while the underbelly is several shades of red
Distinctive Feature
Female red-bellied black snakes have a different hinge mechanism in their jaw from males.
Other Name(s)
Common black snake, red-belly, RBBS, and several indigenous names, including "djirrabidi"
Litter Size
5 - 18 live young
Woodlands, grasslands, forests, swamps and other wetlands, streams, and shallow rivers
Common Name
Red-Bellied Black Snake
Number Of Species

Red-Bellied Black Snake Physical Characteristics

  • Red
  • Black
Skin Type
12 years in captivity, wild unknown
4.5 - 6 feet

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The red-bellied black snake is a semi-aquatic, carnivorous species of venomous snake found primarily in eastern Australia .

The bite of these snakes is toxic, but they are not considered an aggressive species. This lack of aggressive behavior is good because they are one of the most common snakes met by humans in the east part of Australia. Despite their shy nature, they still bite about three dozen people annually, though none of their victims has ever died.

5 Amazing Facts

  1. Female red-bellied black snakes have a different hinge mechanism in their jaw from males.
  2. This species has gone through eight separate scientific names!
  3. These snakes give birth to live, nine-inch offspring, rather than laying eggs.
  4. The only difference between a juvenile red-bellied black snake and an adult is the size.
  5. Indigenous people referred to the these snakes as “djirrabidi.”

Where To Find Red-bellied Black Snakes

These snakes are indigenous to the east coast of Australia , including Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. They are semi-aquatic and often live near bodies of water. They can be found in or near woodlands, grasslands, forests, swamps and other wetlands, streams and shallow rivers. They prefer tall, thick vegetation to hide in, but they are cold-blooded, so they also like areas with patches of direct sunlight. They are sometimes found near drainage ditches.

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Scientific name

The scientific name for the red-bellied black snake is Pseudechis porphyriacus . This scientific name means “red-purple false viper” in Latin and Greek. This snake was first described in 1794 and has had several scientific names during that time before receiving its current one. Originally it was known as Coluber porphyriacus because it was incorrectly believed to be non-venomous. The red-bellied black snake has at various times been called Trimeresurus leptocephalus, Naja porphyrica, Acanthophis tortor, and Trimeresurus porphyreus , as well as a couple of misspellings of its current name. These snakes are also known as the common black snake, red-belly, RBBS, and several indigenous names.

Population & Conservation Status

These snakes are listed as being of Least Concern (LC) by the ICUN. Since they can give birth to 18 live babies at a time, and live in so many different habitats, they are not at high risk of decreased population at this time. The nine inch size of the babies is an advantage too. Since they live on a varied diet of lizards, fish, frogs, and other snakes, their food sources are also plentiful. They can also hunt in or out of water. The red-bellied black snake’s main threat is from the cane toad, whose venom is toxic to red-bellied black snakes.

Appearance & Description

A red-bellied black snake’s size is distinctive, reaching between four and a half to six feet in length. The top part of its body is a shiny solid black, while the underbelly is several shades of red. The head of this snake transitions seamlessly into its body, with no distinguishable neck. They are very similar in appearance to a blue-bellied black snake, save for the belly color.

A Red-Bellied Black Snake peeks out from foliage
Red-Bellied black snakes have no discernible neck

©Belle Ciezak/

Red-Bellied Black Snake Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

The venom from a red-bellied black snake bite can cause a lot of issues, though no human is ever known to have died from one of their bites. The venom keeps blood from clotting, so the bites bleed a lot. In addition to redness and swelling, the venom can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating, weakness, headache, urine discoloration and abdominal pain. They are not aggressive, which also makes them less dangerous, since bite numbers versus human interactions are low.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Behavior and Humans

Every year, about 35 people are bitten by these snakes. Because this snake is so common throughout eastern Australia , and is so frequently encountered by humans, that is actually a very low number. Red-bellied black snakes are shy and in most cases they would rather slither away than attack a human. The exceptions to this would be when a female red-bellied black snake is pregnant and therefore protecting her unborn babies, or when they are simply cornered so there is nowhere to escape. A human might also come upon one of these snakes unaware in the water and receive a strike, but overall, they are not an aggressive species and their venom is not as toxic as that of other elapid species, so they don’t pose a huge threat to people.

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Red-Bellied Black Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is a red-bellied black snake poisonous?

A red-bellied black snake is not poisonous, but it is venomous.

The top part of its body is a shiny solid black, while the underbelly is several shades of red

No, though red-bellied snakes are somewhat rare, red-bellied black snakes are not.

How venomous are red-bellied black snakes?

The venom of a red-bellied black snake is quite toxic to humans, though bites are relatively uncommon with fewer than three dozen per year, but there are no recorded deaths as a result of the venom from their bite.

Where do red-bellied black snakes live?

Red-bellied black snakes are found in the swamps, wetlands, woodlands and grasslands of the east coast of Australia .

Why is it called a red-bellied black snake?

It is called a red-bellied black snake because the snake is primarily black, with a red underbelly.

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  1. Wikipedia, Available here:
  2. Animal Diversity, Available here:
  3. TrishansOz, Available here:
  4. Weebly, Available here:
  5. Australian Museum, Available here:
  6. Wildlife Victoria Government Australia, Available here:
  7. Savannah River Ecology Labratory, Available here:
  8. Rampfest Hudson, Available here:
  9. Animals Mom, Available here:

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