Have you ever seen a corn snake rattling his tail and wondered, “Huh? Corn snakes can vibrate their tails too?”
Yes, corn snakes can rattle their tails.
Is it because they have rattles like rattlesnakes?
Nope. Corn snakes don’t have rattles.
Then how do they make rattling sounds? More importantly, why do corn snakes rattle their tails?
Corn snakes are nonvenomous. It makes them more prone to predators in the wild. And so, they make buzzing, rattling sounds by vibrating their tails to warn potential predators away.
Is that all? Of course not.
Coming up next in this article, we have all the answers to why corn snakes rattle their tails and how they do it. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Does Tail Rattling Come Naturally To Corn Snakes?
Corn snakes are from the same family of snakes as gopher snakes, milk snakes, and kingsnakes. They are all Colubrids – members of the largest snake family.
Corn snakes, also known as red rat snakes, are the fashionistas of Colubrids.
Captivating colors, snazzy patterns, docile personalities – they are stunning. And they’re super low maintenance, too. All they ask for is rodents!
But, unlike coral snakes or rattlesnakes, these scaly buddies are a nonvenomous species. It means one less weapon in their arsenal.
No venom, no problem.
Corn snakes have a reputation for adapting to the environment and surviving in habitats that most animals would struggle to survive in.
Part of their survival tactics is rattling their tails like rattlesnakes. They pass it on to their offspring as they breed. Eventually, all corn snakes learn to produce rattling sounds with their tails.
But what’s the deal with this corn snake rattling tail? Why imitate rattlesnakes?
Why Do Corn Snakes Shake Their Tails Like a Rattlesnake?
To understand why a corn snake rattles its tail like a rattlesnake, we need to know why a rattlesnake does so.
A rattlesnake vibrates his tail as a warning sign. All he’s trying to say is, “Pull back. I’m a rattler.” And the predators take him pretty seriously. They retreat.
Why? Just because of the rattling sound?
Well, let’s just say that the predators are hard-wired to assume that a rattling snake is a venomous snake. They back off to save their lives.
Corn snakes play smart and use tail rattling as a bluffing tactic. It is known as Batesian mimicry – when an animal mimics a dangerous animal (in this case, the rattlesnake) to save his own skin.
Hey, but corn snakes don’t have any death sentence oozing from their fangs. Can’t predators tell?
The predators will have to come out to fight to learn about the venom. Scared from the rattling, do you think they will? It’s a win.
Corn snakes also rattle their tails to communicate among themselves.
Corn snakes are big on communication. But, unlike us, they aren’t digital slaves. They use their tails to send signals to their kind. It could be to warn them of any other snakes in the area or to tell them that they need to get away. It’s like a snake surveillance system.
When Does a Corn Snake Rattle His Tail?
When does your dog bark? Or your cat? When does she hiss?
It’s the same for corn snakes. When corn snakes feel threatened, they’ll vibrate their tails.
The corn snake vibrating tail is a defense mechanism.
Here are two instances when a corn snake feels scared:
Foxes, hawks, opossums, and bobcats love corn snakes as meals. These brave predators try and make a move whenever they can. It scares the corn snake. He rattles his tail as a warning sign and hopes it will scare off the predator.
It also helps the corn snake divert its predator’s attention. If the predator still decides to make a move, the corn snake slithers away as fast as he can.
Your pet corn snake is safe and snug in his terrarium. No rattling, no distress. Suddenly, you startle him with an unexpected touch, that too when he’s busy with his meal. That’s when he’ll rattle away. He doesn’t want you to take his food from him or interrupt his peaceful day. Be kinder, human!
How Do Corn Snakes Rattle Their Tails?
Rattlesnakes have rattles – a bunch of segments that knock against each other and make a buzzing sound. A rattlesnake can vibrate his tail about 90 times per second! Wow!
Compare that to the 15 to 18 times you blink in a MINUTE! Stunned? We were too.
Anyway, back to corn snakes.
So, corn snakes don’t have any rattles. Then, how are they pulling off this trick?
These graceful gliders hide themselves in a pile of leaves and then vigorously move their tails. The dead leaves ruffle, and it creates a sound like a rattle. It might not be too loud, but it’s enough to scare away the predators.
How to Handle a Corn Snake if He Rattles His Tail?
Most first-time snake parents mistake rattling tails for happy snakes. Please don’t assume that. He’s a snake, not a cat!
A rattling tail is a sign that your snake is scared, and he needs to be left alone. Speak softly, move away slowly, and let him chill out for some time.
If you can, check for any possible threats. Is the tank too hot? Too dry? Any movement outside the tank that might be scaring him out of his mind?
It’s best to give your pet corn snake some time and let him get used to you before handling him again.
Corn Snakes – The Wannabe Rattlers
Corn snakes are gentle and bright. They use their tail-shaking antics to fool their predators into thinking they’re rattlesnakes. They also use the trick to send signals to their kind.
But corn snakes don’t have any rattles. They simply hide among dead leaves and then vibrate their tails to create a buzzing sound – loud enough to send their message across.
It’s amazing how nature has made them so smart about survival. Let’s cheer for their tactics and take extra care of the ones we keep as pets.
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