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the web of life in southern Africa

Thelotornis capensis capensis (Southern vine snake, Twig snake, Bird snake)

Savannevoelslang [Afrikaans]; Kotikoti [Ndebele]; Ukhokhothi [Zulu]

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

Top: Twig snake doing its best to look like a twig. Photographed in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. [A. Kruger , from SARCA Virtual Museum]. Bottom: Twig snake in threat posture with neck inflated.  [G. Tomsett , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Twig snake in the process of swallowing what is probably a tree agama (Acanthocercus), which it had captured. Photographed in Mpumalanga, South Africa. [J. Hurter , from SARCA Virtual Museum]


Can be identified by a long pointed head, a distinctive keyhole shaped pupil, a dull grey or grey brown colouration (often with dark blotches), a green or green blue head, a dark line running between the eye and mouth, and its red and black tongue. It can also be recognized by the way its neck when threatened. This snake reaches an average length of 1.2 meters but may also reach just under 1.5 meters.

Distribution and habitat

The Southern Vine snake is found in the following areas of southern Africa: Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West province, Swaziland, southern Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana. Its favoured habitat is lowland forest and moist savanna.


Feeds on lizards (including chameleons), frogs and occasionally birds and 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 between 4 and 18 eggs in summer and is known to produce more than one clutch per season.


Has an average lifespan of 10 years.

Medical importance

This Vine snake species has potentially lethal haemotoxic venom, A bite from this snake constitutes a medical emergency especially since no antivenom is available. Luckily it is seldom encountered and deaths are exceptionally rare.



  • 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.