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the web of life in southern Africa

Thelotornis capensis mossambicanus (Eastern vine snake, Eastern bird snake)

Oostelike voelslang [Afrikaans}

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Colubridae > Subfamily: Colubrinae > Genus: Thelotornis


Can be identified by its long pointed head, a keyhole shaped pupil, a brown or grey brown colour, a distinctive y shape marking on its head and its habit of inflating its neck when threatened. This snake has an average length of 1.2 meters but can grow up to 1.4 meters in length.  

Distribution and habitat

Only found in Eastern Zimbabwe and Central Mozambique. Its favoured habitats are moist savanna and lowland forest.


Feeds on lizards, frogs, small mammals (particularly rodents e.g. mice and rats), fledgling birds and occasionally other snakes.

Predators, parasites and disease

Fed on by birds of prey (particularly secretary birds and snake eagles), and other snakes.


Oviparous (egg laying), laying up to 18 eggs in summer.


Has an average lifespan of 10 years.

Medical importance

This Vine snake species has potentially lethal haemotoxic venom for which there is no antivenom. It is, however, hardly ever encountered  and is responsible for very few deaths.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.