What Do the Largest Snakes in the World Eat?

Animals That Molt - Reticulated Python
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Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: November 16, 2023

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Our world is home to some truly incredible snakes. Travel to Africa, Asia, or North America, and you might find snakes ranging anywhere from a few inches long to the length of a school bus. The smallest snakes eat nothing but insects, but what do the largest snakes in the world eat?

Here, we’ll take a look at ten of the largest snakes on Earth and what their favorite meals consist of. We’ll learn where these snakes live, what they look like, and just how big they get. Additionally, we’ll learn just how each of the largest snakes in the world hunts its prey.

Australia and Indonesia

King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis)

mulga snake

The king brown snake is commonly known as the mulga snake in its native Australia.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The largest venomous snake in Australia, the king brown snake, eats small mammals, birds, bird eggs, reptiles, reptile eggs, and amphibians. King brown snakes grow to a length of nearly 11 feet. They have slender bodies and rely on venom, rather than constriction, to kill their prey. These snakes range in color from red-brown to brown-black, with pale bellies and round pupils.

Amethystine Python (Simalia amethistina)

Scrub python on a tree branch

Young scrub pythons or amethystine pythons spend a lot of time as arboreal snakes.

©iStock.com/Brooke Ottley

Amethystine pythons eat a combination of small mammals and birds, including possums, wallabies, rats, and bats. Like all pythons, they’re carnivorous constrictors and squeeze their prey to death. Also known as scrub pythons, these snakes grow up to 16 feet long, though females are significantly bigger than males. Possibly their most distinctive feature is the iridescent quality of their scales, which has given them the nickname rainbow python.

Asia

King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

Photo by Dr. Anand Titus and Geeta N Pereira 12 - The Mystical King Cobra and Coffee Forests Author Michael Allen Smith from Seattle, USA

The king cobra is the national reptile of India and features prominently in the folk tradition and mythology of the region.

©Michael Allen Smith from Seattle, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

King cobras eat smaller snakes and lizards, including banded kraits, rat snakes, pit vipers, pythons, and whip snakes. These snakes grow to an astonishing 19 feet long and can spit venom over 10 feet. Like all cobras, they have flattened ribs in their neck which they can spread in the distinctive cobra hood. Adults are dark brown or black, with pale stripes and tan throats. They’re highly venomous, and bites on humans are always considered a medical emergency.

Indian Python (Python molurus)

Biggest Snakes: The Indian Python

Indian pythons live throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

Indian pythons mostly consume mammals like rodents but won’t say no to birds, amphibians, or reptiles. They spend much of their lives in the water and move slowly and hunt only infrequently. These snakes can grow up to 10 feet long and greatly resemble other species of python. They have brown and tan markings and heavy bodies designed for constricting prey. They’re also known as black-tailed pythons, Asian rock pythons, or Indian rock pythons.

Burmese Python (Python bivittatus)

A close-up of a Burmese python slithering on a tree.

Burmese

pythons are native to Southeast Asia and are also present in huge numbers as an invasive species in the Florida Everglades.

©lunadoc/Shutterstock.com

Burmese pythons are opportunistic hunters that eat birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Rodents like rats and mice are some of their favorite foods. The larger the python, the bigger the prey it can kill and eat. The largest Burmese pythons in the Everglades may eat alligators, deer, or even pigs and goats. In the 1980s, well-meaning owners released their too-big Burmese pythons into the Everglades. Since then, these incredible predators have wiped out just about every fur-bearing creature in the park.

Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

Reticulated python in front of white background

Reticulated pythons are famously kept in zoos and private homes.

©cynoclub/Shutterstock.com

Reticulated pythons are ambush predators who eat small to medium-sized mammals and birds. Larger specimens are capable of eating pigs, deer, and even monkeys. Though uncommon, there are recorded instances of reticulated pythons eating humans as well. Reticulated pythons are native to Southeast Asia and live as far west as India.

South America

Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor)

Best Pet Snake option - boa constrictor

The boa constrictor is one of the only animals on Earth whose common name matches its scientific name.

©Natalia Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com

Popular as pets, boa constrictors eat mainly birds, rodents, lizards, medium-sized mammals like wild pigs, and amphibians. The bigger they grow, the bigger the prey they’re capable of consuming. Boa constrictors are native to South America and parts of the Caribbean. Adults range from brown to olive green, with yellow markings and yellow bellies. Their heads are long and heavy, like their bulky bodies.

Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Where Do Snakes Live

The green anaconda is the heaviest snake on Earth and also one of the longest extant snakes.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Green anacondas spend most of their time in the water, where they eat birds, small mammals, and reptiles that stray too close to the water’s edge. They also eat amphibians and fish. The largest green anacondas are capable of eating caimans, capybaras, tapirs, and deer. Green anacondas are native to South America and can reach lengths of nearly 20 feet.

Africa

Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) 

Most Venomous Snakes in the World - Black Mamba

Black mambas aren’t actually black; they’re named for the pitch-black interior of their mouths.

©Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

Black mambas eat small prey like birds, rodents, bushbabies, hyraxes, and bats. These snakes use their powerful venom to strike prey. Then, they wait for the victim to die before swallowing it whole. Black mambas are among the most famous and feared snakes in Africa. They are extremely defensive. This, coupled with their deadly venom, means that bites are common and usually serious.

African Rock Python (Python sebae)

close up of African rock python

African rock pythons are the largest snakes in Africa and are one of the six largest snakes on Earth.

©Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock.com

African rock pythons eat medium to large animals. These include monkeys, crocodiles, lizards, antelopes, birds, warthogs, rodents, and even goats and fish. These huge constrictors can even consume hyenas and large impalas. The largest African rock pythons grow up to 15 feet long. They have olive-green and tan markings arranged in irregular splotches along their body. There are currently two recognized subspecies; both live in the southern half of Africa, and both are among the largest snakes in the world.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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