Many thanks to Kerry of Ingham in far-north Queensland for sending in this Backyard Beauty.
As an avid gardener Kerry observes many wildlife visitors in her backyard. She often admires the colourful and raucous Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) bathing and preening in her gutters after rain (which, in Ingham, is a regular occurrence). While Kerry came to expect their daily presence on her roof, someone else was also keeping a close eye on these birds.
One morning Kerry heard a blood-curdling screech coming from the lorikeets usual hangout. On further investigation she was confronted by a common suburban wildlife visitor – the Carpet Python (Morelia spilota) – feasting on a colourful smorgasbord.
Carpet Pythons are found in a range of habitats across Australia and split into 6 subspecies, each with their own colouration and patterning. Kerry’s gutter-feeding friend is a Coastal Carpet Python, subspecies Morelia spilota mcdowelli. This guy stretches from northern NSW to north Queensland and through to PNG.
These snakes are expert climbers so you will find them in trees, roof cavities, exposed beams of verandahs and pergolas, sheds and garages. They are highly mobile creatures, but if you have mice or rat infestations around your property, expect a carpet python to linger and enjoy the ready food supply.
They can also feed on possums, chooks, handbag dogs, other small pets and in Kerry’s case, rainbow lorikeets.
As an ambush predator, this snake would likely have positioned himself in the gutter and patiently waited for the lorikeets to start their daily ritual. Like all pythons they constrict their prey and then slowly ingest. This size feed might keep him going for a couple of weeks.
While I was in Brisbane I did a bit of snake relocating and came across many coastal carpet pythons in houses and backyards. In fact, in Brisbane’s leafy inner suburbs, it has been estimated that up to 50% of houses show evidence of occupation by carpet pythons1.
Although the M. s. mcdowelli subspecies is thriving in the urban environment, subspecies M. s. imbricata (WA), M. s. metcalfei (VIC and SA) and M. s. spilota (VIC) are increasingly threatened due to habitat destruction and feral predation.
Just a few weeks later, Kerry’s backyard beauty was at it again, nabbing another rainbow lorikeet from the same location. It remains to be seen if the lorikeets will return to their daily proceedings on Kerry’s roof, for now they have presumably found a safer location.
1 – Wilson, S. (2009) A Field Guide to the Reptiles of Queensland. Reed New Holland, Sydney.