What Do Kingsnakes Eat? 9 Foods in Their Diet!

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: January 13, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/mynewturtle
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Think You Know Snakes?

If you are living in the United States, especially in California, then there is a huge chance that you have already encountered a kingsnake. This is because kingsnakes are one of the most common snake species found in the States, and are mostly kept as pets. Kingsnakes are typically found in their natural habitats, which are swamps, scrublands, deserts, forests, and grasslands

Wild kingsnakes don’t have a preference for what they eat. Animals and other prey that are small enough to be devoured or swallowed in one piece are often preferred over larger ones. The name “kingsnake” refers to their preference to eat other snakes, especially venomous ones, as a primary part of their diet. So, what do kingsnakes eat?

What Do Kingsnakes Eat?

Florida Kingsnake
As canivores, kingsnakes eat animal meat including rodents, lizards, frogs and turtles.

David Huntley Creative/Shutterstock.com

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Kingsnakes eat other snakes, frogs, turtles, turtle eggs, birds, bird eggs, rodents, and other animals with sizes enough for them to swallow whole.

Kingsnakes are carnivores, as they feed exclusively on animal meat. Baby kingsnakes love to feast on tiny, pink mice. Kingsnakes can basically eat anything, but the foods that they prefer over others include:

Kingsnakes are labeled as cannibals because of their tendency to feast on fellow snakes and even their own species. Kingsnakes love feasting on snakes with poison such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads.

These venomous snakes’ poison don’t affect them at all, so they are free to munch on them as they please. Their fascination with snakes extends to both dangerous and non-poisonous varieties. When it comes to bird prey, chicks are preferred over adult ones. 

How Do Kingsnakes Hunt for Food?

Snakes That Look Like Copperheads-Mole Kingsnake
Because kingsnakes prefer to eat cold-blooded animals, they can be found looking for food in wetter regions.

iStock.com/William Krumpelman

Kingsnakes are opportunistic feeders, which means that they are capable of hunting down a wide variety of animals for food. 

When they are freely living in the wild, they are mostly land dwellers, but they have the ability to climb trees to catch lizards and birds. When held captive as pets or inside zoos, on the other hand, they are more active during dusk and dawn. 

Birds are a favorite meal for kingsnakes, and because these reptiles can climb trees, they can ambush birds in their natural habitat. As a result of their preference for cold-blooded prey such as frogs, kingsnakes can be found foraging for food in wetter regions. In captivity, kingsnakes are known to devour quails and chicks without a second thought.

How Do Kingsnakes Eat Living Animals?

Once the snake has discovered its victim by scent, it snatches it by its mouth, slithering around it in a single second and strengthening its grip until its victim is unable to breathe anymore. Kingsnakes may go on for a few more days without eating anything, depending on the size of their last devoured prey.

How Do Kingsnakes Eat Eggs?

Despite the fact that they have teeth, kingsnakes do not crush eggs to eat them. Rather, they swallow them whole. Their teeth are not intended for chewing after all, but rather for drawing food down their throats. 

Wetlands and rainforests, where animals usually lay eggs during the mating season, are also places frequented by kingsnakes for some snacks of eggs.

Kingsnakes will eat any egg that they come across, as long as they are starving. It is not uncommon for pet owners to feed their kingsnakes some birds’ eggs while they are kept in captivity. Kingsnakes will even hang out near a henhouse not to eat the hens, but to go after the eggs. 

How Do Kingsnakes Eat Other Snakes?

Kingsnakes actively search for other snakes as their prey, hence their name. When preying on a rattlesnake or any other venomous snakes, it uses a special technique that lets it bite the jaws of the prey to prevent it from fighting back. When the kingsnake finds its way to the other snake’s head, it will crush it and start to swallow it while it is still alive. 

In this case, asphyxiating the snake victim is the strategy. The victim snake will eventually die of suffocation if it is unable to move as its head is trapped inside the kingsnake’s throat. Because they do not produce venom, kingsnakes must utilize constriction to subdue their prey in order to be successful.

Are Kingsnakes Good as Pets?

Kingsnakes are excellent pets as they require little maintenance compared to other reptiles, and they come in a wide range of colors and stripe patterns to suit any taste or preference. These pets may have an insatiable appetite, but they are generally curious too and are very easy to handle.

What Do Pet Kingsnakes Eat?

What Do Kingsnakes Eat - Pet Kingsnake
Pet kingsnakes eat rodents, live reptile food, and mice.

iStock.com/RobinOlimb

When kept in captivity, kingsnakes typically eat rodents and mice. They can also feed on live reptile food or frozen mice that have been thoroughly thawed.

California kingsnakes will consume just about any animal or bird in the wilderness that is tiny enough to be overwhelmed and swallowed whole. As kingsnakes generally eat these animals in the wild, there is not any problem feeding them the same in captivity. Mice and rats, however, can fight back, which can inflict wounds to your pet kingsnake. So pet owners are often advised to feed them freshly killed options. 

How Often Do Kingsnakes Eat?

Feeding your kingsnake once a week will keep it healthy, but feeding it twice a week or more will help it develop more quickly.

But also keep in mind that these reptiles are not always willing to be fed more than once a week, especially if their previous meal is quite huge and heavy. Once the kingsnake reaches adulthood, it should be kept from becoming obese. This means you may have to reduce its food consumption.

When fed with a mouse or any huge mammal, the prey shall leave a lump inside the kingsnake’s body that might look a little bigger than its own diameter. Do not handle the kingsnake until the lump has been digested down to its normal width, which will take several weeks.

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