English Name : Bronze-back Tree Snake
Scientific Name : Dendrelaphis tristis
Family : Colubridae
Tamil Name : Komberi Mookan
Description: It is a long, slender, smooth scaled snake with head distinctly broader than neck. It has large eyes with a rounded pupil. Its tail is very long, thin and wire like. It is bronze brown or purplish brown back with a dark brown or black stripe on either side of the body. Its underside is usually white, gray or pale green. A similar looking painted bronze-back (Dendrelaphis pictus) is differentiated by its red tongue while the bronze-back has blue tongue.
Distribution and status: Most of peninsular India including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. May not occur in Central India. Found from sea level up to 2,000 m in the Himalayas. It is common in vegetated areas in South India.
Habitat: Bronze-back lives exclusively on trees and shrubs. It rarely comes to the ground. Inhabits low bushes, thorn trees, Indian date palms and palmyra.
Habits. It is diurnal and arboreal;. It is extremely fast on ground when it falls from a branch to escape. If cornered, some will strike repeatedly while expanding forebody to show light blue/ white color at lower edge of each scale. It can leap from branch to branch. When excited it expands the neck to exhibit the white or metallic blue coloration.
Food: It feeds on frogs, garden lizards, geckoes, and small birds even entering thatched houses to feed.
Life cycle: Females lay 6-8 long thin eggs around April in tree holes and rotting vegetation. Young are similar to adults but have banded pattern till the first year.
Role in the environment: Unlike water snakes which prey on animals associated with water, Bronze- back tree snake prey on terrestrial forms. Due to its arboreal habits it is unique in the food chain. Several false stories are told about this harmless snake. In Tamil Nadu they are said to bite, then climb a tall tree to observe the victims funeral pyre.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean