While most snakes hunt during the night to avoid predation, there are also many that are active during the day. These snakes are called diurnal snakes and include rat snakes, garter snakes, corn snakes, and cobras among others.
Even nocturnal snakes will often come out to warm themselves on rocks during the day because snakes need the sun to balance their temperature and synthesize vitamin D.
When we refer to diurnal snakes, we’re often referring to snakes that have a clear pattern of sleeping at night and both sun warming and hunting during the day.
Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmed. Consult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.
List of Diurnal Snakes
1. Baird’s Rat Snake
This colubrid is a harmless snake endemic to Mexico and the United States. It is the only known species of its kind. It hunts primarily for rodents, but they also take on birds if given a chance. Young ones eat lizards.
Many snake owners strongly recommend this species for beginners. This snake prefers to live in rocky habitats. It goes by many other names like Baird’s pilot snake, the Great Bend rat snake, and Baird’s Coluber.
Read More: Five Docile Pet Snakes Perfect for Beginners
2. Black Mamba
One of the most dangerous snakes in the world, the black mamba is the subject of many myths. For example, people say that it chases humans, but this is not true.
The black mamba moves fast, and it has four extant species. They are generally brown, but the inside of their mouths is black.
They eat birds and lizards. The black mamba is terrestrial, so it also hunts rodents and small mammals. They live in lairs and will stay there for years.
See Also: Black Snake Symbolism
3. California Kingsnake
A beautiful snake, this one is endemic to both the US and Mexico. It can grow up to four feet and is a kind of kingsnake like the milk snake.
It eats rodents and birds. As opportunistic hunters, they also eat amphibians and reptiles, even snakes. It is not venomous, but it is a powerful constrictor.
As a snake eater, it has some immunity to venom, and it is what allows the snake to eat even rattlesnakes.
Read More: List of Snakes that Eat Other Snakes
4. Common Brown Snake
People also call this snake the Eastern Brown Snake. It is an elapid that can grow up to seven feet. They typically go to farmlands, but they live in dense forests.
It is the world’s second most venomous land snake, next to the inland taipan. One curious thing about it is that it seems to hunt by sight, not smell. Usually, it finds prey in the prey’s home. The brown snake likes to eat mammals and birds.
Related Article: 7 Wild Snakes Encountered in Hawaii
5. Corn Snake
Another non-venomous colubrid, the corn snake is a species of rat snake. It has corn-like patterns on its body and thus the name. People often mistake it with the copperhead because of how it looks.
Corn snakes are beneficial to humans, especially in farms that have a rat infestation. They eat every few days, and they like small rodents. In the wild, they will also eat other reptiles and amphibians. Some will climb trees to hunt for bird eggs.
Read More: What do Corn Snakes Eat?
6. Eastern Indigos
Although it looks fearsome, the eastern indigo is not venomous. It is a colubrid that is native to the United States. It is one of the longest snakes of all native species in North America.
When it hunts in the day, it looks for a small animal that it can overpower. As a colubrid, it has no venom to kill. It also eats other snakes, including venomous ones. Studies show that it has some immunity to rattlesnakes found in North America.
Related Article: Are Snakes Tetrapods?
7. Garter Snake
A great pet to have, the garter snake is harmless to humans. It has a distinct band that runs along its spine, and it can grow up to 54 inches. There are 35 species of snakes that have this pattern, and all of them are garter snakes.
They like to eat slugs, rodents, lizards, and frogs. For as long as the animal is small enough, the garter snake will attack. They also eat frog eggs.
Related Article: 10 Snake Adaptations
8. Gopher Snake
Also known as the Pacific gopher snake, it can grow up to seven feet. Its length is formidable, but it is harmless as it is not venomous. One unique thing about the gopher is that its hatchlings are long-they can reach 20 inches in size.
If it is too hot, they become nocturnal. They eat small mammals, particularly the gopher, a type of rodent. They also eat lizards, birds, and bird eggs. Sometimes, they will eat bats.
Read More: Do Snakes Lay Eggs?
9. King Cobra
King cobras are ferocious snakes. Their main diet is other snakes, but they also eat other animals. A king cobra can live up to 20 years and reach a length of 18 feet.
Because of this length, a king cobra can “stand up” and stare a human eye to eye. The good news is that they are shy, and they will avoid humans. If cornered, it will hiss, but the sound it makes is like a growl.
10. Vipera Darevskii
A beautiful yet venomous viper, this one is endemic to Armenia and Turkey. It is critically endangered. It is a small snake that can only grow to 16 inches or a little more.
Its bite is not dangerous to humans, but it will cause some swelling. A tough predator, it hunts for lizards and rodents.
For small mammals like these, its venom is potent enough. Studies show that they have a fast metabolism, so they eat more than other snakes do.
Read Also: What do Vipers Eat?
11. Western Hognose Snake
A venomous snake, it is also colubrid. It is endemic to North America, and people call it by different names. Some examples are prairie hognose, spreadhead, plains hognose, and spoonbill.
They feed primarily on amphibians. Frogs are their favorite, and they also eat toads. From time to time, they will also take on lizards.
The hognose has potent saliva that can break down the toxins of a toad. Another exciting thing about them is that they can go on for three months without eating.
Related Article: 11 Species of Nocturnal Snakes
How do Diurnal Snakes Hunt?
Snakes have poor eyesight. Even in the light of day, it is difficult for them to see, so they rely on their powerful sense of smell and infrared sensors to detect their prey.
What this means is that regardless of the snake’s hunting time, it does not rely all too much on its vision.
Some snakes, like pit vipers, have a heat-sensing vision. They use it not only at night but also during the day. Pit vipers in the desert hunt in the daylight.
Another method that diurnal snakes use is smelling. Snakes have a powerful sense of smell. They flick their tongues to get a feel of their surroundings, and this is how they primarily hunt.
Coupled with their ability to “hear” sound from the air and the ground, they have what it takes to succeed in hunting.
All snakes will have diurnal activity at one point or another. There is no such thing as an exclusive nocturnal snake.
Snakes need the sun. Those active within the day are a product of their evolutionary process in relation to their environment.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.