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In an area near where I work in Monterey, I often walk during the noon hour and end up in a meadow that is much-beloved to red-winged blackbirds.

The other day I saw something unusual, though - as I walked into the meadow, I noticed a large bird - some sort of crane, I reckon - with a large black snake half-swallowed. When it (the bird) noticed me, it flew off several dozen yards, and then landed again at the far end of the meadow, standing there again, with the snake dangling. The snake must have been already dead, because it wasn't flopping around. I walked toward it/them to get a better look. The bird then lifted its head skyward, gulped down the snake, and flew off.

I didn't know cranes or crane-like birds ate snakes, and I'd never seen a big black (or dark brown) snake around here before. Is this normal behavior? What type of bird was it, probably? What type of snake was it, probably?

Hopefully not a rattlesnake, because they give me the fantods, even though I've only gotten close enough to to hear one rattle once.

  • 1
    I doubt if anyone can help you with this question since there are umpteen possibilities of many aspects. If it was a crane, Cranes do eat snakes, thats known to us. Identifying a snake just by "a large black snake (or dark brown)" is way too difficult. – WedaPashi Apr 23 '16 at 6:11
  • And, so take a look at: outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/10361/2303 – WedaPashi Apr 23 '16 at 6:11
  • @WedaPashi: The location lets me know what it wasn't (a black mamba); I was just wondering if someone with knowledge of the area (Central Coast of California) would have an educated guess - or possibly a 99% certainty - of which flavor of snake it was. – B. Clay Shannon Apr 23 '16 at 13:27
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    I don't have direct knowledge of the coast of California, so anything I find is from a web search. Is that okay? Did you get close enough to see if it was all, or mostly, a solid color, or did it have stripes or spots? – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Apr 24 '16 at 17:01
  • It looked all black to me, but I was a good ways off (probably 25 yards) – B. Clay Shannon Apr 25 '16 at 2:21
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To answer the snake part of it, looking at some information on different websites and your vague description about color (dark brown to all shade till black), I can take a few guesses. It can be either of the list below:

  1. Northern or Southern Rubber Boa (Charina bottae or Charina umbratica)
  2. Western Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon)
  3. One of the many species of Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus amabilis)
  4. Baja California Ratsnake (Bogertophis rosaliae)
  5. Sierra Gartersnake (Thamnophis couchii)

These are not my favorites, I have listed them because there are usually found on meadows. We can narrow down the scope by studying when they are active.

  1. Rubber boa (Charina bottae) - Typically Nocturnal, very very rarely seen to be active in daylight. - Less likely to be the snake you saw.
  2. Western Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon) - Active during daylight
  3. One of the many species of Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus amabilis) - Very secretive behavior, active during night and about at dusk. - Less likely to be your snake.
  4. Baja California Ratsnake (Bogertophis rosaliae) - Nocturnal or crepuscular, unlikely to be the snake you saw.
  5. Sierra Gartersnake (Thamnophis couchii) - Active during daylight, Yes. But a known aquatic snake. So unlikely to be the one you saw.

Do we have an answer? Some might say, Yes. I'd strongly say No. It can be a Western Yellow-bellied Racer, but I can't be sure unless we discuss about size of the snake. The main beauty and science of identifying a snake or a bird is the detailing. The more you read, the more interesting it gets.

References: Majorly taken from http://www.californiaherps.com/

  • Thanks; it was a good-sized snake; "larger than your average snake" as Yogi Bear used to say. Possibly even an exotic snake that had been someone's pet. I reckon it was a good two feet long. – B. Clay Shannon Apr 24 '16 at 12:22
  • @B.ClayShannon: 2 Ft is not that long. – WedaPashi Jun 2 '16 at 14:54
  • I stick with my statement that was larger than average. Most snakes I have seen are only about a foot long. Then again, I have lived in the US all my life, not in places where Boas and such live. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 2 '16 at 14:59
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There are many different cranes, so more details about the color and size would be helpful. It is normal behavior, so I'm not surprised you encountered it. My first thought is a sandhill crane. They're found in California, and have snakes as a regular part of their diet. I'm not sure about the snake part of your question, but will do some research and see if I can come up with anything.

  • Sandhill Crane sounds right, although I'm no crane expert. The thing I can say for sure is: it wasn't Bob Crane. Even if he was still alive, I would be confident in that assessment. – B. Clay Shannon Apr 24 '16 at 0:27

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