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My experience with Parrot Snakes... thus far...

Posted by Sonja K. at 2/27/2012 10:42:32 PM

First of all, I know this is going to be a really long blog... It's mainly a record for myself of what transpired over the last 4 months, so it's been a while in the making. If you take the time to read it, though, I do hope you enjoy!

On November 1st, I received a 1.1 pair of Parrot Snakes that had originally been imported from Suriname.

For those unfamiliar with Parrot Snakes, one of the things they are best known for is their gaping mouths.

Here is a picture of the female doing just that... it truly is what they do best!

They are a slender snake, and fast! I swear the male can be out and half way across the floor before I can get the swing door of his cage even a couple inches open... I know because he has done it to me 3 times!

And here is that male - much smaller / younger than the female. 

Both of them ate from the get go - feeding on live tree frogs... Here are a few pics...

I love this one in particular... the male was in shed, but periscoped up when he smelled the frog, and to me it looks like the frog is trying to plead his case and the snake is like, "Yah, yah... heard this story before!" 

Needless to say, the frogs pleading was to no avail...

(Please excuse the urates and the quality of the pics - they were shot through plexi...) 

And here is the female looking pretty smug after her meal...

Thanksgiving Day, I notice the female was tucked under her water dish (It's an Ikea one where there is space under it that serves as a sort of hide for smaller snakes). I didn't think too much of it - figured perhaps she was in shed or something. The next day, when I was out to clean water dishes, I noted she was still under the water dish. When it came time to do her cage, I picked up the dish, and I found 5 eggs that were fairly dehydrated. Here they are set up in moist vermiculite - to try and rehydrate them...

I had done water dishes the day before Thanksgiving, so they were laid at most ~36 hours prior, but I was hoping it was less.  

Since these were my first ever colubrid eggs and there were no references to be found online for Parrot Snakes, I contacted where I had purchased the animals from for advise as to a temp. to incubate them at and for an idea of how long the incubation period may be - providing I was able to rehydrate them and all went well. I was told 80F and that he thought 50-60 days. He also said it could take up to a week for the eggs to rehydrate.

On this day, I also had made a trip to purchase rodents, and had happened to bring home a few live mice to try with a few of my non-rodent eaters and/or hold outs on F/T. I ended up with a couple live pinky mice left that the ones I had gotten them for had not been interested in. On a whim, I decided to put the Parrot Snakes each in a feeding tub with the live pinks to see if by chance they would eat one - my hopes weren't high since I have found no reference to the species eating rodents online. But, low and behold, the female took and ate one without issue, and being she had just laid a clutch, I was happy that she was eating again so soon.

After just 4 days in the incubator, this is what the eggs looked like:

Everything went well - they rehydrated perfectly - and I was on my way with my first colubrid clutch. Smile

On 12/7 I noted that the eggs looked great and had been fully hydrated for several days. The wait had begun, and the expected hatch date looked to be right around my birthday ~ 3rd week of January, and I thought what a great present that would be!

I did not weigh the clutch initially, but on 12/21, the total weight of the clutch (5 eggs) = 13 grams.

On 1/5, the clutch had increased to 15 grams.

I also took measurement of the eggs a few days after and they were 13mm in width and 31mm in length.

By the time the middle of January came, my excitement was really starting to build... 50 - 60 days put the hatch date somewhere between Jan. 14th and Jan. 24th.

Then Jan. 18th came, day 54, and when I ran out to check the incubator, I was met with this:

My heart sank, and I truly did not know what to make of it. My snakes are in a separate building that I only have access to. They were within an incubator. I drove myself crazy trying to figure it out. Then, I think after the shock wore off a bit, it hit me. The eggs were in a different position. Being as I had found them dehydrated, I did not separate the eggs - just incubated them as they had been laid. I had done the same in the past with various Python eggs, too, so did not think much of it. What I had done initially, and in part to help rehydrate, is put some extra vermiculite up under the one that was on top to help support it. As the incubation went on, the eggs swelled / increased in size and weight. When the humidity dropped some, I only misted in the corners of the bin - as I had done in previous years with my Python eggs because I didn't want to get the eggs themselves wet. 

What I'm thinking happened is that with the increase in weight of the eggs and combined with the drying out of the vermiculite that had been supporting the one egg, the one on top took a tumble, and in doing so, also ripped open the one it had been adhered to. 

If you look close in the pics, you can see where there is a small layer of the shell still attached between the two. No doubt the baby in the egg that had tumbled off had died in the process. I held out hope for the other, though.

Jan. 19th, the following day, this was the appearance of the clutch. The one that had tumbled still did not pull away easily at this point, meaning there must have been another point where it was still adhered, so I waited for fear of further damaging the one that hadn't tumbled but had been ripped open.

For those that have had eggs go bad, you know this, but for those that haven't, as an egg goes bad, it will lose its adhesion to the egg it had been adhered to. 

Jan. 20th - Note, the redness of the yolk of the one that hadn't tumbled. It's hard to see in the pic, but there were veins within that, too. I continued to be hopeful.

January 24, there was definite deflating, and I was able to pull the fallen egg away easily this day, so I did. Being there was no smell to the fallen egg yet, I left it in the incubator.

The next day, however, that all too familiar smell of a bad egg was there, and at that point, I decided to open the egg to see how the baby had been developing.

This is what I found... 

Here was the clutch that remained:

Jan. 26th:

Jan. 29th, the damaged egg was found discolored and deflating. It was removed easily from where it had previously been adhered.

Jan. 30th, I cut into this egg and found that the baby looked to be slightly more developed - the eyes and mouth seemed more defined to me anyhow.

Days passed and the three remaining eggs continued to look good. 

It became apparent that the information given to me of 50-60 for incubation had not been accurate.

Valentine's Day came, still no pipping, and further heartbreak... I found that the mama to this clutch had passed... RIP girl... I sure did enjoy the time I had with you!

Then, the very next day, on Feb. 15th... day 82... I finally found the first of the eggs with a slit! That was at ~ 6:30pm, and in the next hour I was able to witness the first slits being made in the other 2. So cool how they all go so close together!

See the nose!? Laughing

The next morning, I found two babies had emerged... the ones from the first and third eggs to pip. There was something puzzling to me, though...

This is what it looked like...

The vermiculite had been spread even and was covering both the 2 empty eggs, as well as the third egg that still had a baby in it.

I uncovered the eggs, and the baby remaining in peeked its nose out and I was happy to see it was ok. A few minutes later, though, it hit me that the slit was no longer on the side of the egg, instead on top, and fearing the possibility of the baby drowning in the egg, I opened the tote back up and picked up the egg to reposition it correctly. When I did, the baby inside began to come out. I grabbed my camera quick and managed to get this picture as it emerged from its egg.

Few pics of the cuties...

You may notice, they are already shedding within the first day...

And now a few of what the Parrot Snakes are known for! 

This next one is my favorite! How can you get any cuter than a little snake with a gaping mouth and that little egg tooth!?Smile

Next step... getting them to eat!! In preparation, I had not only offered the adults frogs, and the pinky mice, but also fish... which the female took no problem. So, I had two avenues that I was hoping would work - feeder guppies in a dish or frog pieces offered from a tweezer. Yes, pieces - being these ones are tiny... I tried weighing them on my gram scale, but to no avail - they didn't register.

Sunday, Feb 20th, 4 days after hatching, they were offered their first meal of a couple feeder guppies in a shallow saucer of water. And... one of them ate!! Baby #3, the last out of the egg was the first to eat! The picture is horrible, but see the lump!? Laughing

The other two did not, but I was so pleased that one took so soon out of the gate.

Saturday, the 25th, brought feeding attempt #2. Very soon after, baby #3 grabbed a guppy out of the dish, I watched as it killed it (they are rear-fanged), but then it dropped it and lost interest. I left all 3 with saucers of water and 2 live guppies in them overnight. Next day, I still had the same number of guppies. So, I picked up one of the guppies that had likely flipped out on its own. I also picked up one of the babies from their individual bins, and began doing what I thought would solicit a gape from them. They must not have been feeling real threatened last night, though, because they sure weren't gaping like they had done previously. When they finally did, I started the guppy into their mouths... and it worked! Slowly put them down - one continue to eat, the other dropped but as soon as I grabbed the guppy, it gaped and I put it in again and it went to town eating! 

So, now, all 3 have taken their first meal... and I have to tell you, I am so excited and proud of the little cuties! May this be the first of many, many meals in their futures! 

And down it goes...

Thank you to Thomas "Nightflight99", Dan at DTS, and my friend, Brad, for their guidance along the way. 

 Comments: View Oldest First  

Abby McDufford,
Posted At: 2/27/2012 11:02:39 PM  

Awww, adorable little babies! thank you for sharing! Sorry about the mom and the two lost eggs, but those little babies are too precious for words...

Thomas ,
Posted At: 2/27/2012 11:21:07 PM  

Very much enjoyed this write-up, Sonja. The hatchlings look gorgeous, and I cannot wait to see how they do for you longterm! Thank you for sharing.

Laurel & Nick ,
Posted At: 2/27/2012 11:21:17 PM  
They are just gorgeous. My condolences on the mother. Best of luck raising those beauties. I hope you post more pics soon.

Posted At: 2/28/2012 2:21:48 AM  

They're ridiculously adorable; I can't get over their metallic sheen and those wee, tiny gaping mouths! RIP momma snake, hopefully the CB cuties will have a better chance at a long life in captivity. What a cool story. :)

Sonja ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 7:24:33 AM  

Excellent blog!  Very interesting to see the whole story from the beginning.

L & A Lopez =0),
Posted At: 2/28/2012 8:23:23 AM  

Im going to be late to work because I got sucked into this.... Amazing blog for sure! (gotta run now.. lol)

Lucas ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 8:41:47 AM  

i have had an intrest in these for a while now.  thangs for the blog on them and congrats on the babies!

Posted At: 2/28/2012 9:50:28 AM  

That was an awesome blog!  Congrats on your awesome babies!!

Joe Farah,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:13:34 AM  

Sonja that is so cool!  Congrats on hatching those babies!  I think the species you have is Leptophis ahaetulla...   they're beautiful.  Thanks so much for sharing this... i really enjoyed all the pics and the commentary

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:33:43 AM  

Thanks everybody!

Yes, Joe, that is the species I believe I have, too. Is that what you saw on your trip?

Emily Milton,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:36:05 AM  

I cannot believe how incredibly small those babies were!  Earthworms are bigger!  They kind of looked fake, actually (I mean that in a good way).  Something SO SMALL, but so vibrant in colour.  It's mind boggling that being so small they had the same colouration as the parents did as soon as they were BORN!  And then the gaping little mouth - beyond adorbs.

Best of luck with them!  More updates and pictures please too ;)

Joe Farah,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:43:03 AM  

Hi Emily!

Sonja, i saw L. mexicanus in Mexico...  Not quite as pretty as yours

Aaron Florian,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:43:26 AM  

AMAZING POST! thank you!!!!

Emily Milton,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:44:15 AM  

Hi Joe :)

Paul White,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:54:07 AM  

WOW!  Major congrats, and I hope you get the babies up and established.

Amanda ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:54:20 AM  

Sonja- this is absolutely amazing!! Great work and I'm so happy that they hatched and are eating! They're adorable- give them a little kiss for me :D

WebsByRaven ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:00:41 AM  

Wow! Congrats, and thank you so much for sharing! Amazing pics 8}-<

Aaron Florian,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:05:27 AM  

This is why we love Sonja.

Well, this and several million other reasons :D

Casondra ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:08:23 AM  

What an awesome blog! Thanks so much for sharing.. totally made my day to see this! Congrats!

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:36:24 AM  

Thank you, Aaron. 

Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:51:04 AM  

What a fantastic article.  I loved this, and I really loved seeing the babies.  Congrats!

Posted At: 2/28/2012 12:26:05 PM  

Amazing! Such a well written article, and such fantastic pictures. These snakes are beautiful, and so cute. I love their huge eyes and irridescent scales. What an adventure. :)

Posted At: 2/28/2012 12:32:10 PM  

congrats on the kids.  They are gorgeous. I love their colors!  Sorry aboutthe mom tho :(

L & A Lopez =0),
Posted At: 2/28/2012 1:32:17 PM  

Yes, very sadenning about momma. But she left you a clutch of beautiful little ones, to carry on her memory.

Posted At: 2/28/2012 1:39:33 PM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this, too, Sonja. Thank you for documenting your experiences and for sharing that record with us!

Those hatchlings are just adorable. Best of luck with them.

Candace ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 1:41:53 PM  

They have the most lovely colors!!!  I had never heard of these darlings and they look wonderful!  Thanks for the blog and sharing your adventure with us!

Jessica ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 1:51:41 PM  

They are adorable Sonja, congrats. You did a great job!

Pope of iHerp and Bread,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 2:45:23 PM  

This is definitely a good read. Sonja, I'm so happy for you. No one deserves this more.

Brett Nation,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 3:16:01 PM  

Simply AWESOME indeed!

Definitely sad to hear about loosing the mother snake. However, with each new life brings hope!

Mega congrats on your success and thanks so much for sharing!

Angie ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 3:16:02 PM  

Awesome story, full of discovery, sadness and Joy. I love these snakes. I remember reading about them a few years ago and trying to find someone that sold them  and having not luck. They are so incredibly gorgeous. Congrats on the babies and sorry about the mom.

Susan ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 3:56:57 PM  

Enjoyed reading your blog.  the snakes are gorgeous.  good luck with them.

Jennifer White,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 3:58:45 PM  

Congrats on the cute babies. They are super cute.

Sorry about the mom. Loved her face after eating the frog.

Dave Pierson,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 5:09:52 PM  

Thank you again for posting this!  It is a real shame about the female, but hopefully you will be well rewarded for your work getting to watch these little guys grow and develop in your care.  Congratulations! They are adorable :)


Colleen ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 5:28:16 PM  

What an amazing journey! I love this blog and I hope you continue to update us!

My youngest was completely repulsed by the 'poor frog' getting eaten, and then in the next breath loved the pictures after where it looks like 'the snake is smiling and burping' :)

As always incredible pictures!!!

Proof once again you can do anything you set your mind to!


Vivian Eleven,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 5:54:39 PM  

Okay, I squeed so loudly and for so long at the pictures of those babies that my not-a-snake-person husband had to come look at them too, just to see what was so extra-special about these.  They're adorable!  And such a nice surprise!  It's good that they started hatching the day after the mother died, I think.  Those guys would salve a lot of sting.  Thank you so much for sharing!

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 8:23:59 PM  

Thank you for all the wonderful comments! I'm glad you enjoyed the read and pics!

Michael ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 9:10:41 PM  

Their pretty cool ....

Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:08:41 PM  

Did you know you're now on the Reptile Report:

Pro-Exotics posted the link on fb and I thought, hey wait, that picture looks familiar.

Eric ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 10:37:09 PM  

All I can say is WOW!

Jeff ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:32:20 PM  

Reading this just made my day. That is Totally Awesome!!! Congrats Sonja

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:36:09 PM  

"Tiki" - Ha! No, I had no clue - I'm not on Facebook. That's pretty neat! 

Thanks guys!

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 2/28/2012 11:39:32 PM  

I hope no one is mislead... that write up states that I captive bred them, which is not the case - she was gravid when imported.

Aaron ,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 8:25:21 AM  

That was fanscinating to read Sonja, thank you. Shame they didn't all make it but the ones that did are gorgeous - amazing little snakes

Lauren ,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 8:28:03 AM  

Very cool! Love all the pictures, and the babies are stinking adorable. :)

Posted At: 2/29/2012 9:26:09 AM  

Pretty cool Sonja!!! This is one of those thread that made me go research another animal. They truely are an incredible species. GREAT blog!


Melanie Bernal ,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 10:49:37 AM  

OMG!!!! That was absolutely fantastic Sonja!!!! I enjoyed every single word!!! Such a great detailed journey. What an interesting little species!!! So very glad you were able to salvage the eggs. They are adorable little cuties!!! Kudos to you for your TLC and dedication to see them through. That mouth gaping is a scream!!!! the Chondro world, it's a nightmare!!!!! 

So sorry to hear you lost the female, but she lives on in those tiny shimmery squigglies!!! Good luck with them. You're pictures are amazing as always. Thank you sooo much for sharing. Loved it!!! 

+100 Aaron...just one of the many reasons we love her!!! 

Melanie Bernal ,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 11:03:34 AM  

I forgot to add....the picture of the frog still hanging on to the little piece of greenery while being swallowed is HILARIOUS!!!! And then, his legs sticking out to the sides!!! LOVE IT!!! 

Aaron ,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 11:09:44 AM  

yup watching an animal dying is always a blast...

Vivian Eleven,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 11:44:24 AM  

Come on, this post was hardly about that.  We are celebrating adorable babies here.  That's not a very nice thing to say.

josh cole,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 12:21:17 PM  

Congrats. That was a very good read. Very interesting snake

Posted At: 2/29/2012 1:02:46 PM  

Wow...from tears to laughter! I just was on the edge of my seat as you unwraveled the tale.  RIP Mama Polly Parrot

Kylie (Gargoyle Queen Reptiles),
Posted At: 2/29/2012 7:23:02 PM  

That's so cool!!  I especially enjoyed all the pictures.  :) Thanks for sharing Sonja! 

Patrick Holmes,
Posted At: 2/29/2012 8:49:04 PM  

Sonja! What a great blog! Congratulations on the hatchies! The neonates are insanely cute. That metallic sheen is unbelievable. You see colors like that much more on insects than on herps. When you said what you heard about the incubation period, I knew you'd end up finding out it was longer. My BDG mangrove hatched at day 108.

I'm sorry you lost mamma, but at least you got some viable eggs from her. I have never seen CB parrots before. Parrot snakes are a species that has fascinated me since childhood. The photos I've seen in snake books for as long as I can remember have always captured my attention. And of course I have almost always been interested by almost any tropical arboreal herp.

I tried to order some with a venomous order we placed in 2006 (FB baby puff adders, Gaboons, rhinos, CB "gabinos" and albino monocled cobras and WC parrots). Everything came except for the parrots. They were sold out, and I was bummed out. They were only $25, and supposedly very colorful. I don't know much about their taxonomy, but I know I've seen a few different color forms, and some have been brown. I have never seen any with colors like these babies, but obviously they change a bit with maturity.

When you started talking about feeding the neos, I immediately thought that if they didn't take something on their own after a couple opf tries, I would just try sticking something in their gaping mouths! I have a couple of baby chondros that I wish would gape like that! Good luck getting them going Sonja. Keep us posted, and thanks so much for sharing!      -p-

Posted At: 3/1/2012 2:18:07 PM  

what an amazing story! sorry about the mom and the 2 eggs but congrats on those ADORABLE babies OMG they are so cute and gorgeous and shiny!! You are such a great story teller!

Ryan ,
Posted At: 3/1/2012 4:25:30 PM  

Great read. Congrats on the babies!

Chris McIntosh,
Posted At: 3/1/2012 8:13:03 PM  

Gotta love the Leptophis ahaetulla!  Congrats!

Quan Harper,
Posted At: 3/2/2012 11:45:46 AM  

Now that was an awesome read!  Thanks for sharing.

Mystic Exotics ,
Posted At: 3/2/2012 2:19:30 PM  

Congrats on the babies! They're unblievably cute! Sorry to hear about the momma, she was beautiful.

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 3/2/2012 3:05:16 PM  

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful comments!

George H. Wessel VII,
Posted At: 3/2/2012 3:15:07 PM  

Now this is what a blog is supposed to be! Amazing!

Posted At: 3/2/2012 10:23:48 PM  

Excellent account of a species rarely even seen in captivity. Congrats on your success in captive hatching these little gems and hope you will continue your efforts. I would love to read next of captive reproduction. ...CBB Leptophis ahaetulla would be an incredible accomplishment!

Jason ,
Posted At: 3/3/2012 9:38:20 AM  

Wow! Thanks for an amazing read. It was really cool how you documented everything and then posted the whole story in one post. Bummer on the ones you lost, but you did end up with some great success!

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 3/6/2012 11:46:14 PM  

Little update:

2 of the 3 babies have had a second shed, and all 3 had a second meal tonight. 

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 3/12/2012 8:29:41 AM  

They all took frog pieces last night.

Chris McIntosh,
Posted At: 3/12/2012 8:56:57 AM  

Awesome, congrats Sonja!

Sonja K. ,
Posted At: 3/12/2012 12:07:16 PM  

Thanks, Chris!

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