Backyard Buddies
Children's Python

Photo: Matt Clancy

Children's Python

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The Children's Python does not eat children – it gets its name from the scientist who first described them in 1842, John George Children, the curator of the British Museum's zoological collection at the time of the discovery. It is the common name given to 4 species of native Australian pythons. They live in northern and central Australia and have also been spotted in northern NSW and northern South Australia.

This python buddy is a fairly common sight in Darwin and nearby towns and they are nothing to be afraid of. The gentle nature of a Children's Python makes them hard not to like - they can be a bit snappy when young, but adults are very docile. Like all pythons, they don't produce any toxic venom. When the Children's Python is catching its prey, it relies on its powerful constricting muscles to squeeze the air out of its dinner, instead of using venom.

Children's Pythons are nocturnal and only grow to 1 metre long, making them the second smallest Python in the world and one of the daintiest of Australian snakes. They are brown with darker markings and the scales have an iridescent blue sheen.

Their mating season is in spring. Keep an eye out as you may see rival male Children's Pythons wrestling in the dust, fighting for the right to mate with the local females.

Once the female has mated, she will lay 2-20 eggs later in the year. She sticks her little white eggs together in a clump and then curls protectively around them to keep them warm and scare off predators.

The Children's Python eats most small animals including lizards, frogs, small mammals and even birds. They can be a big help if you have too many mice or rats in your backyard.

Avoid using rat poison in or around your house as snakes will eat the poisoned rats and absorb the poison too. Rat poison can kill not only rats but snakes and other animals.

Children's Pythons often hunt at night and instead of relying just on their eyes, they also have a heat-sensing lip that allows them to "see" their warm-blooded prey. The senses on their lower jaw work in a similar way to infra-red cameras that can detect heat. This adaptation helps the Children's Python find their prey in the dark and gives them the element of surprise.

The Children's Python has developed some interesting techniques and behaviours. One of its favourite foods are bats, but bats can be tricky to catch. To catch their food, the Python hangs down at a cave entrance and snatches a flying bat from mid-air.

You can see this snake right across Australia, but usually behind glass as they are a favourite pet for snake lovers. These snakes are usually very placid, which is why they are often kept as pets by people all over the world. If you think a Children's Python would make a great pet, make sure to check the licensing rules as they are different state to state. Remember it's illegal and dangerous to just take one from the wild.

Did you know? 

The upper and lower jaw of a python do not "unhinge" as is commonly believed. Instead, the food passes below this joint along the bottom of the neck, which can stretch enormously around the prey.

If you see a Children's Python or another snake, make sure you leave it where it is. It's best to quietly admire them from a safe distance. Avoid trying to catch, move, or kill snakes you see around your backyard. Your local council may be able to recommend a snake catcher to remove a snake if it doesn't go away by itself, as they usually do.

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”Birds, bugs, lizards and penguins are my favourite Backyard Buddies – I like to find, watch and learn about what they do and what I can do to help them.“

Gus – 11 year old Backyard Buddy, NSW

Photo: OEH