Have you ever gone out for a midnight stroll when you heard something odd and wondered if it was a snake? Do snakes make noise at night?
Yes, some snakes can make noise at night, especially if they are nocturnal. They make hissing, rattling, shrieking, growling, farting, squeaking, popping whistling, and buzzing sounds. Since their victims are often more active in the evening, many snakes, including rattlesnakes, pythons, and vipers, are nocturnal.
But what exactly do they sound like, and why do they create that noise? Let’s take a hissing dive into the realm of snakes.
What Kinds Of Noises Do Snakes Make?
Hissing is used as a means of communication by nearly every snake species. Snakes make their unique hissing sound when they exhale air via a hole in their glottis, which is located in their trachea. The snake uses this sound to make itself seem bigger and scarier, which is a common defense strategy. The hiss’s volume and intensity might change depending on how dangerous the situation is thought to be.
The rattlesnake is a kind of snake indigenous to the Americas and is well-known for its rattling sound. The rattle is made up of keratinous segments that are interwoven and may be found at the very tip of the snake’s tail. The quick, pulsing rattle is produced when the snake contracts certain muscles, causing the segments to vibrate against one another. This is an extremely effective warning signal, letting potential attackers know that the snake is ready to strike at any moment.
Some species of snakes do not have vocal cords, but those that do have the ability to produce a high-pitched shriek. The African Bush Viper uses this alarming noise to ward off potential enemies. This strong warning signal is an excellent depiction of the wide range of snake communication. This isn’t simply a loud hiss; it’s a very specific, strong sound that only comes from a snake when it’s upset. This vocalization is intended to scare away would-be predators, giving them another line of defense.
Snakes occasionally make a low, growling sound, although it is quite unusual. This growling noise is part of the threat display used by eastern hognose snakes. It’s produced by the animal vibrating its body in a way that’s meant to simulate the sound of a larger predator’s growl. Their complex bluffing behavior, including this aural illusion, is meant to scare off would-be assailants.
It’s true that snakes may make a sound similar to farting, which is more accurately described as cloacal popping. When a snake exhales air from its cloaca, which serves as the sole exit point for both its digestive and reproductive systems, this phenomenon takes place. It’s another protective method, and its purpose is to shock prospective dangers, especially those who could be coming up behind you.
There are several kinds of rattlesnakes that are capable of producing a high-pitched squeak, such as the Desert Massasauga Rattlesnake. It is believed that this sound is a distress signal that is used to confuse or frighten away potential predators. This low-volume, high-frequency noise, as opposed to the rattling or hissing, seems to indicate fragility and may be used to take advantage of the hesitancy of prospective predators.
Hognose snakes frequently make popping sounds as part of their act of death-feigning when threatened. They make popping noises with their mouths to give the impression that they are dead. The combination of this sound, their rolled-over position, and their tongue lolling help to provide a more convincing depiction of death, which in turn helps to avoid future attacks from predators.
By pushing air through their glottis, several species of pit vipers are able to make a whistling sound that is both spooky and soothing. This inconspicuous sound acts as an auditory signal, which contributes to their protection system. The whistle, which has a characteristic that is similar to that of wind, is spooky and one-of-a-kind, and it serves as a tribute to the great range of snake communication tactics.
The Saw-scaled Viper makes its distinctive buzzing sound by rubbing together different parts of its body, which is an unusual method of sound production. This audible warning, in addition to the snake being quick and hostile, contributes to the fact that it is one of the most feared snakes in its native areas. The snake only resorts to making this sound as a final form of its threat display, indicating it is getting ready to strike.
Why Do Snakes Make Noise At Night?
Snakes, like many other animals, use a wide range of defensive mechanisms to keep themselves safe. These cold-blooded reptiles rely more heavily on aural cues at night, when vision is reduced, to warn off possible predators. A snake’s creepy hiss or a rattlesnake’s menacing rattle serve as an aural warning, signaling the snake’s willingness to attack if further provoked.
Their nightly defensive plan relies heavily on this sound shield, which is meant to deter attackers before a direct encounter is necessary. In the dark, the Eastern Hognose snake may even make a noise that sounds like a growl in order to trick prey into thinking it is a much larger and more dangerous animal.
Many snakes are most active at night, when they may hide from predators and engage in mating rituals without being seen. In such circumstances, sound plays an important part by allowing people to communicate with one another despite their impaired vision.
Snakes communicate with one another and people around through a variety of vocalizations, including high-pitched shrieks, quiet whistles, and buzzing noises. The significance of sound in snake social dynamics is demonstrated by the variety of uses of these audible signals, including communication of willingness to mate, expression of distress, and warning of prospective invaders.
Snakes’ keen sense of smell and heat detection is crucial to their hunting fulfillment, but they may also use sound to their advantage. The use of noise to confuse or frighten animals is common in nocturnal hunting. An unexpected hiss or rattle might force its target to freeze, giving the snake an ideal time to attack. By rubbing parts of its body together, the aggressive Saw-scaled Viper makes a buzzing sound that may serve to distract victims just before an attack. The snake’s ability to strategically employ sound during the night increases its effectiveness as a predator in the dark.
Nocturnal Snake Species
One of the most distinctive features of rattlesnakes is the sound made by their tails when they feel threatened. The rattle, made of interlocking keratin pieces, emits a terrifying sound when shaken, warning of the snake’s impending strike. This noise is especially effective at night when rattlesnakes can’t see their enemies coming and still scare them away. The fact that many rattlesnakes are nocturnal makes this aural indication crucial to their survival.
Although pythons are more known for their size and power, they are also known to make use of sounds in their repertoire of behaviors. While not having a distinctive soundtrack like the rattlesnake’s rattle, pythons may make a loud hissing noise when threatened. Some pythons are exclusively nocturnal, with most of their activity occurring after dark. Hissing is an effective defensive signal in the darkness, allowing the python to announce its presence and deter prospective intruders.
Most of a viper’s actions, including hunting and defense, occur during the night. This is true of even the most infamous vipers, the Pit Viper and Saw-scaled Viper. They may make a wide range of noises, from hisses to buzzes. By rubbing its scales together, the Saw-scaled Viper creates a distinctive buzzing sound that serves as an aural warning to would-be predators.
Similarly, certain Pit Vipers can make a faint whistle, a haunting sound that serves as an additional defense mechanism at night. Therefore, these noises are crucial to the viper’s nighttime activities, serving as a means of communication, defense, and hunting.
Can You Identify Snake Species By Their Sounds?
Snake noises are interesting, but identifying species by sound alone is difficult. This is because many snake species make similar sounds, such as hissing, which is almost always a sign of anger in the snake world.
There are exceptions when noises can identify a snake. Rattlesnakes’ distinctive rattles are their auditory badges. By rubbing its scales, the Saw-scaled Viper makes a buzzing sound that may help identify it. However, a snake’s size, age, and health can affect even these characteristic sounds, complicating identification. Sound can reveal a snake’s behavior and species, but it’s not a reliable identification tool.
Physical appearance, behavior, and environment are better snake identification indications. Respect and safety should always be at the forefront of any interactions with these fascinating but potentially hazardous creatures.
How Do Snakes Make These Noises?
The hiss of a snake is an amazing example of evolution in action. The special breathing system of the snake is key to the generation of this sound. When compared to humans, snakes can only use one of their lungs. When they hiss, they expel air strongly from this lung, which then moves through the glottis, a little piece of cartilage in their windpipe that vibrates as the air moves through it.
The snake’s lips and scales amplify this vibration, creating a hissing sound. The hiss isn’t a constant breath out, though. Snakes hiss by quickly opening and closing their glottis, creating the impression of a single, lengthy sound. This ingenious method ensures that they may continue to breathe while still making their intimidating hiss, which is very important in stressful situations.
A rattlesnake’s rattle is one of the most distinctive alarm calls in the animal kingdom. The rattle is constructed from keratin, the same protein that forms hair and nails, and has hollow, interconnecting segments. The rattlesnake’s rattle comes from the collision of these segments as the snake vibrates its tail.
A new section is added when a snake loses its skin, which can happen many times a year. The length of the rattle isn’t necessarily indicative of the snake’s age because old pieces might fall off over time. Because of this unique auditory adaption, rattlesnakes can avoid dangerous encounters with predators.
Myths About Snake Sounds
There is a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding the world of snakes. The idea that snakes can “sing” or “talk” is one example of such a myth. Snakes indeed have a wide range of vocalizations, but it’s crucial to remember that they don’t make a noise like humans or birds do.
In the absence of vocal cords, snakes must resort to other means of making noise, such as hissing (which involves pushing air through the glottis) or rattling (which rattlesnakes accomplish using specialized tail segments). There is no indication that snakes can control the pitch of their hissing or squeaking in a way that would allow them to imitate human speech or music.
It’s also widely believed that snakes have the same ability to “hear” as humans. Snakes can sense ground vibrations rather than airborne noises since they lack external ears. Their hearing range is restricted and distinct from that of humans, yet they do pick up on some airborne noises.
Sounds That Attract Snakes
According to the myth, there are several noises that either bring snakes closer or drive them away. The scientific truth, however, is quite different. To find their way around and track down prey, snakes rely heavily on their keen sense of smell and ability to detect heat. There is no solid evidence that certain noises uniformly attract snakes, yet they are sensitive to vibrations and low-frequency airborne sounds.
The snake’s attention is probably drawn more to the charmer’s motions than the sound itself when using numerous noises to attract snakes, such as the flutes used by snake charmers. It’s more likely that the snake’s reaction was protective than intrigued. Respect and safety should always be at the forefront while interacting with wildlife, and any efforts to entice or control these fascinating animals should be avoided at all costs.
Snakes produce a wide range of sounds for survival. Snakes use these noises to communicate, from hisses to rattles. Dispelling these sounds’ myths is crucial. Snakes don’t make sounds like animals or birds, and their hearing is different from ours.
Snakes’ nocturnal or diurnal habits don’t always make them dangerous. It’s mostly species and individual behavior. Due to common sound patterns, using snake noises alone to identify species can be deceptive.
Despite snakes’ interesting acoustic world, more study is needed to properly grasp these unique creatures. As we investigate, we must be polite and cautious of these fascinating creatures.