Snakes are not natural whistlers- if at all they make whistling sounds, it is never intentional. While it is not an everyday occurrence, snake species such as ball pythons make the occasional whistling sounds.
There are several reasons behind a snake producing whistling sounds, as will be discussed below in this article. Either way, it is not a cause for alarm when your pet snake starts whistling. It is vital, though, to examine the snake as sometimes whistling is associated with respiratory infections.
When do Snakes Whistle?
Snakes are not intentional whistlers. They hiss and growl instead. So, under what circumstances do snakes whistle?
The most common reason why some snake species whistle is the beginning of the shedding cycle when there is a loose layer of skin inside their nostrils. Once the process is over, the snakes do not produce any more whistling sounds.
Some snake species will produce a whistle after swallowing prey. This is because they tend to breathe a little heavily, something akin to a sigh. As they push a little extra air from their lungs, a whistle is formed. The snake will whistle only once or twice and will not do it again until it swallows more prey.
Another instance when snakes produce whistling sounds is when they have a respiratory infection. For this reason, it is advisable to inspect the snake for other symptoms of infections, such as mucus or clogging of the nostrils. If they are sick, consult a vet immediately. Either way, whistling is not always caused for alarm; a snake could be 100% healthy and still whistle.
Additionally, some snakes whistle as a defence mechanism. The Russell viper is one such snake. Its whistle is not subtle and is enough to scare off a potential predator.
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Does Whistling Attract Snakes?
Some people say that whistles attract snakes at night. There is no solid proof of this, so it remains to be a myth.
It also makes sense because snakes were common, and children generally disliked snakes; therefore, parents used a familiar animal to dissuade youngsters from whistling for generations as adults regularly handed along this myth.
Snakes That Are Known to Make Whistling Sounds
1. Corn Snakes
Corn snakes are docile, non-venomous snakes that are known to make gentle pets. They are also pretty attractive as they are brightly colored. Corn snakes are named for their belly scales that resemble maize.
Most of the snake’s lovers who own corn snakes as a pet have experienced the snake producing whistling sounds. As with other snakes that whistle, this happens when corn snakes are undergoing the shedding process, which may clog their nose. Thus, they have to breathe a little harder than usual, causing a whistling sound. Corn snakes may also whistle when they are suffering a respiratory infection, so look out for symptoms to be sure.
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2. Ball Pythons
Ball pythons are also known as royal pythons. They are one of the snakes that most people love as pets. These non-venomous snakes are the smallest in the python’s family. These snakes are native to central and western Africa, but they are the most traded pet snakes.
These snakes are known to whistle, albeit occasionally. Their whistles are quiet, and you would have to really pay attention to hear it. The most common reason as to why a ball python would whistle is when it is shedding the skin inside its nostrils or if it has debris inside the nose. Another reason would be a respiratory infection, in which case you should consult a vet immediately.
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3. Russell Vipers
A Russell viper is a very venomous snake in the sub-county of India. It gets pretty aggressive when threatened. Russell viper is one of the most distributed viper families famous for its whistling sound and long fangs.
The Russell viper whistles as a defense mechanism to scare away potential threats. The viper produces the sound by letting out a lot of air through its nostrils. Unlike a ball python, the whistle of a Russell viper is loud and mimics the sound produced by a pressure cooker.
Other Sounds That Snakes Make
See Full Article: 6 Sounds Snakes Make
Besides whistling, there are other sounds made by snakes. Snakes make these sounds for different reasons: mating, defense mechanism, or communication. The sounds include the following:
A hiss is the sound of a snake heavily breathing in or out. Most snakes all over the world are known to make a hissing sound. Snakes like gopher snakes, cottonmouths, bull snakes, anacondas, boa constrictors, cobras, and reticulated pythons are known to hiss.
This sound comes from air passing in or out through the snake’s mouth and nose. Snakes hiss as a way of defending themselves, mainly to scare away the predators. Hissing is the primary method that snakes use to protect themselves.
The most common species of snake that is known to growl is the cobra. The snake will stand on its tail when threatened and produce a growling sound, very similar to that of a dog. A rat snake with tracheal diverticula will also produce a growling sound.
Some snake species have the ability to shriek. This is the sound that it makes and sounds like a strong wind—an example of snakes that typically shriek is the pine snakes because they have a vocal cord.
Snakes pass gas through their cloaca, where they also produce musk. The sound pops and sounds like a fart which the snake usually forces out and comes out like a human fart. This sound is known as cloacal popping.
Rattling is mainly known for rattlesnakes. The other snakes that vibrate their tails are the pine snake, rat snake, milk snake, king snake, gopher snakes, and bull snakes.
It is not all snakes that have a rattling tail that produces the rattling sound. Some make the rattling by vibrating their tails against leaf litter and producing a buzzing sound. The rattling sound is made by snakes as a defense mechanism.
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It is not usual for a snake to squeak. Python owners attest that most of them make this sound when suffering a respiratory infection.
Snakes do not usually make whistling sounds. Only a few of them do, and it mostly happens when they are shedding, after a big meal or when they are suffering a respiratory infection. Even so, only a few snake species exhibit this behavior, as listed above in this article.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.