Black snakes with yellow bellies are a fascinating group of snakes that can be found in different parts of the world. In this article, we will take a closer look at the eight most common species of black snakes with yellow bellies, including their unique features, habitats, and potential risks to humans.
8 Black Snakes with Yellow Belly
1. Plain-bellied Water snake
Scientific name: Nerodia erythrogaster
Plain-bellied Water snakes are nondescript, which makes them good at blending in with their habitat: ponds, streams, and riparian areas. They’re medium sized snakes that average between 24 and 40 inches long.
This snake has a wide range that extends the coastal Southeast west to Texas. It prefers lower altitude and places that flood on the regular. Its favorite foods include fish, crustaceans, and amphibians. To hunt, it either ambushes prey or hunts it directly.
2. Prairie Ringneck
Scientific name: Diadophis punctatus arnyi
This is one brightly colored snake! Prairie ringnecks may be small – they range between 10 and 14 inches long – but they are easy to spot. This snake’s black back is nondescript, but its belly is bright yellow or orange. Its neck has an orange collar, the trait that gives it its name.
Look for them in the Midwest. They like to live in grasslands, prairies, and forests. Human infrastructure, especially junk piles or outbuildings on farms, don’t bother them.
They’ll even use them as a home base from which to go hunting. Their favorite foods include frogs, insects, lizards, and salamanders. Larger specimens eat tiny rodents and other snakes.
3. Graham’s Crayfish Snake
Scientific name: Regina grahamii
Spot a Graham’s Crawfish Snake along the lowlands of the Mississippi River from Michigan to Texas. It lives in the Central United States in places where water is abundant.
These include swamps, streams, and ponds. The more stagnant the water, the better. Even though they’re not venomous to people, they’re often mistaken for cottonmouths.
Tell it apart from cottonmouths and other snakes by way of its coloration and shape. Its head is small, its body is lithe, and its coloration is completely different than any terrestrial venomous snake.
Graham’s crawfish snakes have dark gray or black backs and light yellow bellies. They range between 18 and 28 inches long.
4. Salt Marsh Snake
Scientific name: Nerodia clarkii
The Salt marsh snakes live in the Southeastern United States, especially in the salt marshes and brackish waters of the Gulf Coast. While there are several different color morphs, most are black with a light yellow belly. They grow to around 2 feet long and can live for two decades.
Most of this snake’s diet consists of fish and crustaceans, which it catches by swimming close to shore. They can’t filter out saltwater from their bodies, so they get their water by drinking rainwater.
5. Yellow-bellied Kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster
Yellow-bellied kingsnakes are adaptable snakes that average between 24 and 42 inches long. Since they’re immune to the venom of rattlesnakes and copperheads, those venomous snakes make up a good chunk of their diet.
When identifying a yellow-bellied kingsnake, take care. There is a lot of color variation within the species.
The back of the snake can be patterned with black, gray, and dark brown. The belly is usually whitish yellow.
You’re apt to see this species in the Eastern United States and the Midwest. It has three subspecies which live in the Midwest, East, and Florida.
6. San Diego Ring-necked Snake
Scientific name: Diadophis punctatus similis
San Diego ring-necked snakes live in Southern California near the Mexican border. These snakes have a dark green or greenish-black back with a bright yellow belly. The underside is decorated with small black dots.
They live in the dunes and rocky woodlands of the hills and mesas around San Diego. Thanks to rocks and vegetation, they can lie in wait for salamanders and frogs. Their prey is small since they themselves are usually less than 13 inches long!
7. Yellow-bellied Sea snake
Scientific name: Hydrophis platurus
The Yellow-bellied sea snakes are classic black-and-yellow snakes. Their backs are a drab gray-black color and their bellies are almost fluorescent yellow.
It’s extremely adapted to oceanic lifestyles. In fact, it spends most of its life in saltwater.
While the snake hails from the Indian Ocean region, specimens have ventured as far as New Zealand, Tasmania, and even southern California! They are regularly found along Africa’s eastern coast and the western coast of Australia.
This snake reproduces in the kelp mats that float freely in the Pacific Ocean. While they do spend most of their lives in saltwater, they have to drink freshwater to survive.
Their primary freshwater source is rainwater. It subdues fish, its prey, with venom and can even swim backwards!
8. Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer
Scientific name: Coluber constrictor flaviventris
The Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer is a striking snake with a long, slender body that can grow up to 65 inches long. While their dorsal coloration can vary from black, brown, olive, blue, gray, or nearly black, their most notable feature is their yellow belly
. This bright and easily noticeable color serves as a warning to predators. Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racers are found in central and eastern North America, from the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast, and inhabit a variety of environments, including forests, fields, and wetlands.