Tilcuate (Drymarchon corais) characteristics, habitat, feeding

Sherman Hoover

The tilcuate (Drymarchon corais) or indigo snakeIt is a daytime reptile belonging to the Colubridae family. The name tilcuate comes from the Nahuatl language. In this three roots are combined: tilli (black), coa (snake)Y you (animal). It is also known by other names such as black snake, stream snake, buzzard and indigo snake..

During pre-Hispanic times, this snake was considered a deity and was associated with fertility. This belief was related to the fact that they arose from the bowels of the earth. With the conquest and preaching of Christianity, this worship changed to repulsion, since for the church the figure of the serpent was associated (and still is associated) with demons.

Tilcuate specimen

There are five species of the genus Drymarchon. These are found in southeastern North America, Central America, and South America. Of all these species, the Drymarchon corais it is the one that is most widely distributed. Copies can be found from southeastern North America to South America.

On the other hand, in many parts of the Americas the tilcuate has commercial value. This is due to their attractiveness, docility, and the fact that they are not poisonous..

Article index

  • 1 Characteristics of the tilcuate
  • 2 Habitat
  • 3 Playback
  • 4 Food
  • 5 Legends
  • 6 References

Characteristics of the tilcuate

Tilcuates are dark-colored snakes with a robust build. Its average length is between 120 and 150 cm. When it reaches adulthood it can measure up to 280 cm.

The tail represents about 20% of its total length. The head is distinguished from the neck, it has large eyes and round pupils. It can vibrate its tail and produce a hissing sound, mimicking the sound of a rattlesnake. This sound is emitted when it feels threatened.

In addition, it has black dorsal scales (head, body and tail). The ventral scales are light with dark spots. The supralabials and infralabials are light with a thick dark border. At first glance, it has a black or dark gray color, which under daylight can appear bright with intense flashes of blue or purple..

Drymarchon corais

On the other hand, the tilcuate is very sensitive to changes in its habitat. There are already species declared threatened in some regions of America. Such is the case of the Drymarchon corais couperi In U.S.A.

This species has been under pressure from the domestic and international pet trade, residential and commercial expansion, and the bioaccumulation of pesticides..

As for their natural enemies, they are very few. Within this group of enemies are birds of prey, coyotes and wild cats. The human being is also a predator of this species. 


The tilcuate has a habitat spread throughout America. According to records, they are in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, Colombia, Venezuela, among others. Their specific habitats are as varied as the regions where they are established.

They are mainly reptiles from humid tropical forests. But they can also be found in drier areas such as savannas, mangroves, thorny forests (cacti, tunas, etc.) and in forests near lakes, rivers and streams..

It is known as aquatic customs, as it requires clean water sources to survive. However, it can also be found on the ground. Likewise, they can easily climb trees and shrubs to search for food..


In general, like most snakes, the species Drymarchon corais it is oviparous. They have a certain period of time during which the male fertilizes the female with his sperm. They incubate for two or three months and can have up to 20 young.

In some species the fertilization period extends between November and April. The females lay their eggs between May and June. These eggs hatch between August and September. These periods can be modified depending on the particular species and the start of the rainy season..

On the other hand, for other species, fertilization takes place from June to January. Egg laying occurs between April and July and hatching occurs from mid-summer to early fall. Young at birth are 43 cm to 61 cm in length.

There are studies that suggest that females of the species have the ability to store sperm from the male and self-fertilize. This way you can delay the fertilization of the eggs if necessary.

Currently, it is being studied whether they have the capacity for self-fertilization or parthenogenetic reproduction (growth and development of embryos without previous fertilization)..


Head of the indigo snake (Drymarchon corais). Source: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The tilcuate's diet is composed of anuran amphibians (toads and frogs), lizards, snakes, bird eggs, reptile eggs, birds and small mammals..

The mechanism used to feed consists of biting its prey and then suffocating it by strong pressure against the ground.

Due to their diet, the peasants consider them beneficial. They can eat other toxic snakes, such as rattlesnakes. This is because they are immune to its venom..

Also, the inhabitants of the agricultural areas assure that, thanks to the activity of the tilcuate, they have a better control over rodent pests on their lands..

In recent times, their natural habitat has been destroyed by human activity. This modification has displaced the tilcuate towards urban areas, which has affected their eating habits. Specialists suspect that some specimens have become omnivores.


The behavior of the tilcuate is the subject of many myths and fantasies. Legends say that these snakes fight with men and put women to sleep with their breath.

They also ensure that when someone gets close enough to them in the field or on the banks of rivers, streams or lakes, you can hear them emit a hiss similar to that of human beings..

Likewise, a famous story in Morelos assures that this snake "steals" the milk of women when they breastfeed their children. To achieve this, it sleeps the mother and her baby by emitting a mist that leaves them unconscious.

He then proceeds to suck the milk from the breasts while keeping his tail in the child's mouth to keep him quiet. They also ensure that the tilcuate has the ability to give painful lashes with its tail when disturbed..

In reality, this snake can bite hard when irritated. However, it is not considered dangerous for humans..


  1. Cid, C. (2016, October 21). The tilcuate, a snake surrounded by myths. Retrieved on February 3, 2018, from masdemx.com.
  2. HIlyard, A. (editor). (2001). Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
  3. Everglades. National Park Service. (s / f). Eastern Indigo Snake: Species Profile. Retrieved on February 3, 2018, from nps.gov.
  4. Ecured. (s / f). Indigo Snake. Retrieved on February 3, 2018, from ecured.cu.
  5. Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. (s / f). Eastern indigo snake. Retrieved on February 3, 2018, from nationalzoo.si.edu.
  6. Prudente, A .; Menks, A.C .; Silva, F. and Maschio, G. (2014). Diet and reproduction of the western indigo snake Drymarchon corais (serpentes: Colubridae) from the Brazilian Amazon. Herpetology Notes. 7, pp. 99-108.
  7. Pérez Higareda, G .; López Luna, M. A. and Smith, H. M. (2007). Snakes from the Los Tuxtlas Region, Veracruz, Mexico. Mexico D. F .: UNAM.

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