Yellow-bellied Water Snake

23 Apr

Hypsiscopus plumbea

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea coiled to strike

Yellow-bellied Water Snake found on road near ponds in Phayao Province

Third Rice Paddy Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea from same spot

Another Yellow-bellied Water Snake in Phayao Province

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea

Yellow-bellied Water Snake found in mud in Phayao Province

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea

Yellow-bellied Water Snake found under fish pond rock in Kanchanaburi Province

Rice Paddy Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea nostrils and eyes

Close-up of Yellow-bellied Water Snake

Two Gray Water Snakes Hypsiscopus plumbea Enhydris plumbea

Two Yellow-bellied Water Snakes found under rock in Laos

plumbeous water snake Hypsiscopus plumbea enhydris plumbea

Yellow-bellied Water Snake in Vietnam (photo by Eduard Galoyan)

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Hong Kong eating frog enhydris plumbea

Yellow-bellied Water Snake eating frog in Hong Kong (photo by Anne Devan-Song)

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Hypsiscopus plumbea  Kevin Messenger China 1

Yellow-bellied Water Snakes in China (photo by Kevin Messenger)

rice paddy snake Enhydris plumbea  Kevin Messenger China

Yellow-bellied Water Snake showing unusual ventral color (photo by Kevin Messenger)

English name: Yellow-bellied Water Snake (aka: “Plumbeous Water Snake” or “Rice Paddy Snake”)
Scientific name: Hypsiscopus plumbea (formerly Enhydris plumbea)
Thai name: Ngu Pling

Description: To 77cm long. This small water snake has a moderately broad head and smooth scales. It is uniformly dark above with a pale cream to yellow underbelly.

Similar Species: Rainbow Water Snake has a smaller head and colored lines going down its body.
Jagor’s Water Snake has small dark blotches down its sides.
Chanard’s Mud Snake has a pale line down its side and a row of small dark dots above the line.
Sunbeam Snake is iridescent, has a narrow wedge-shaped head, and is whitish-gray on the bottom.
Red-tailed Pipe Snake has a small head and a barred underbelly.
Yellow-striped Caecilian lacks scales, has yellow stripes on the side rather than a yellow belly, and has a distinctly non-snake-like head.

Habitat: Slow-moving rivers, ponds, swamps, rice paddies, and other wetland habitats with stagnant water. Forages from dusk until dawn. Found on land more often than other water snakes, but rarely far from the water.

Place in the ecosystem: Feeds on fish and frogs. Eaten by larger snakes, large fish, monitors, and wading birds.

Danger to humans: The Yellow-bellied Water Snake will aggressively strike when cornered on land, but its small size keeps it from being able to inflict much damage. While it is a rear-fanged snake with some venom, the venom has a limited effect on humans, possibly leading to some swelling in the worst cases.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues. This is a common species in Thailand, though its population in Taiwan is endangered.

Interesting facts: Yellow-bellied Water Snakes are excellent swimmers but move awkwardly on land. When faced with a threat on land, they will sometimes flip their bodies up into the air and backwards with a reverse-striking motion, propelling themselves erratically towards the water.

Snakes of Taiwan: Enhydris plumbea
Reptiles of Hong Kong: Enhydris plumbea
The IUCN Red List: Enhydris plumbea
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
A Field Guide to the Snakes of South Vietnam


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19 responses to “Yellow-bellied Water Snake

  1. Chelsey

    June 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    What do they eat ?

  2. Miguel

    April 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

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  3. lisachociej45750

    May 14, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I think I found one of these on a hiking trail near my dad’s house. We live in southeast Ohio. are these snakes venomous?

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      May 15, 2016 at 11:51 am

      The “Yellow-bellied Water Snake” that is found in Asia and the “Yellow-bellied Water Snake” that is found in America are two completely different kinds of snakes. Names can be confusing like that sometimes – there’s no worldwide organization to keep all the common names straight!

      But no, the snake you saw is certainly not venomous. Here is a link to what you probably found:

  4. Heather Fairweather

    May 18, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Yellow bellied water snake found on the west coast of Central America and on occasion as far north as California belongs to the Cobra family and is venomous.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      May 19, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      You’re thinking of the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake, whose scientific name is Hydrophis platurus and which is found in the Pacific Ocean. That is a very different species from this one. You are right that the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is a distant relative of the cobra and is venomous. But the Yellow-bellied Water Snake, which is only found in fresh water, not salt water, is not dangerous at all.

  5. Richard Bentley

    March 8, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    The FIRST thing most people want to know whey they identify a snake is whether or not it is venomous. and if so, how venomous as to being a danger to people.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      March 9, 2018 at 12:51 am

      Yes, I believe you can see the section where I detail exactly how venomous and potentially dangerous the snake is? That section is included in every snake entry.

      For every species which is dangerously venomous, there is a large, conspicuous note right on the very top of the page. However, I’ve felt it unnecessary to include that for the non-dangerous species. Better if they do the work to read the whole account and learn more anyways!


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