ACTIVE PERIOD: Most active during the day
KEY ID FEATURES: Red neck, can flatten neck and head when disturbed
BEHAVIOR: Generally docile, but can bite if handled
SIZE: Small - 60-80cm
OTHER: Red portion of neck can secrete poison
QUICK ASSESSMENT 0-10
IMPORTANT: Many snakes have significant variance in coloration and pattern even within the same species. There can also be extreme differences in appearance from juveniles to adults so it is important to never assume you have properly identified a snake.
With a distinct 'Red Neck' the Red Neck Keelback is a relatively easy snake to identify and is not easily confused with other species in Hong Kong. Generally olive green with black checkering running the length of the body and greenish yellow highlights, both juvenile and mature specimens exhibit the same colors and patterning with the juveniles showing brighter more defined colors. Head color will transition from dark grey to olive green as the snake matures. At least one example of color morph has been observed in this species where the specimens color profile was entirely black and white so it is possible in extremely unique situation to misidentify and as a result caution should always be applied.
Active during the day, the Red Neck Keelback is relatively common in Hong Kong. It is generally not aggressive but if cornered may flatten out its neck and rise up in a defensive 'S' posture while hissing. As a rear fanged snake, envenomations from a Red Neck Keelback are rare, but their venom has been proven to be deadly in at least one instance and as a result this snake should never be handled and given space if observed. An additional incentive not to handle this snake is its ability to secrete poison from the red section of its neck. This is a unique feature to the Red Neck Keelback adding to its 'cool factor' in the context of Hong Kong snakes. (Click here if the video block does not load:https://youtu.be/GlCJgJenj94)
This species hunts toads as its favorite prey and as a result can often be found near water sources, but is also common in forested areas. Red neck Keelbacks are found all over Hong Kong including Hong Kong Island. Active during the day and terrestrial they are commonly seen on jogging trails as well.
NO SNAKE SHOULD EVER BE HANDLED BY ANYONE BUT EXPERTS: The Red Neck Keelback is a unique snake in Hong Kong that is not easily mistaken for any other endemic species. Visit the 'Practical Venomous Snake ID' section of the Snake ID page for tips on identifying some of the more common venomous species.