Thai National Parks

Snakes of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Common sunbeam snake

In Thai: งูแสงอาทิตย์, ngu saeng aatit

Binomial name: Xenopeltis unicolor, Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt, 1827

Xenopeltis unicolor is a non-venomous sunbeam snake species found in Southeast Asia and some regions of Indonesia. This is a primitive snake known for both its highly iridescent scales and its ability to reproduce quickly, as it is oviparous and as such can lay up to 10 eggs at a time. No subspecies are currently recognized.


Grows to an average of about 1 m (3 ft 3 in). A fossorial species, the head is wedge-shaped and narrow with little neck delineation, which makes it easy to push through the soil. Its most defining characteristic is its iridescent, highly polished scales that give this snake its common name. They have a layer of dark pigmentation just below the surface on each scale that enhances the iridescence. The youngs look very similar to the adults, except that they have a strong white "collar" of scales evident just below the head. This coloration fades within the first year.,

This is a primitive form of snake with both boid and python characteristics; which family it belongs to is still a matter of debate.

Geographic range

Found in China (Guangdong and Yunnan), Myanmar, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, West Malaysia, Penang Island, Singapore Island, East Malaysia (Sarawak), Indonesia (the Riau Archipelago, Bangka, Billiton, Sumatra, We, Simalur, Nias, the Mentawai Islands Borneo, Java and Sulawesi) and the Philippines (Balabac, Bongao, Jolo and Palawan). The type locality given is "Java".


Tends to live in open areas such as forest clearings, gardens and parks. Often encountered in rice paddies.


These snake are constrictors, killing their prey by suffocation in their muscular coils. They are fossorial and spend most of their time below ground. They may bite readily if handled roughly but mostly it will just try to escape if picked up. They also observed to vibrate their tails as if in a rattlesnake fashion when they feel threatened.


The diet is varied, consisting primarily of frogs, reptiles, including other snakes, and small mammals.


Oviparous, with females laying up to 10 eggs at a time.

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Scientific classification

Xenopeltis unicolor

Common names

  • German: Regenbogen-Erdschlange
  • English:
    • Common sunbeam snake
    • Asian sunbeam snake
    • Sunbeam snake
  • Thai: งูแสงอาทิตย์, ngu saeng aatit


  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Van Stanley Bartholomew Wallach et al. (2014)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Nguyen Van Sang et al. (2009)
  • Xenopeltis concolor, Larry Lee Grismer et al. (2008)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Roy W. McDiarmid, Jonathan A. Campbell & T'Shaka A. Touré (1999)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Grossmann (1997)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Ermi Zhao & Kraig Adler (1993)
  • Cryptophidion annamense, Van Stanley Bartholomew Wallach & G. S. Jones (1992)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Malcolm Arthur Smith (1943)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, George Albert Boulenger (1893)
  • X[enopeltis]. leucocephalus, Giorgio Jan & Ferdinando Sordelli (1865)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Theodore Edward Cantor (1847)
  • Tortrix xenopeltis, Hermann Schlegel (1837)
  • Xenopeltis concolor, Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt in Friedrich Boie (1827)
  • Xenopeltis unicolor, Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt in Friedrich Boie (1827)
  • Xenopeltis leucocephala, Reinwardt In F. Boie (1827)
  • Coluber alvearius, Friedrich Boie (1826)

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)


Xenopeltis unicolor
Xenopeltis unicolor (juvenile)
Xenopeltis unicolor (juvenile)
Sunbeam Snake
Xenopeltis unicolor

Range Map

Distribution map of Common sunbeam snake, Xenopeltis unicolor in Thailand
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Bang Lamung District, Chonburi
  • Bangkok Province
  • Chiang Klang District, Nan
  • Chok Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Doi Suthep - Pui National Park
  • Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
  • Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Khao Nang Phanthurat Forest Park
  • Khao Saming District, Trat
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani
  • Khong Chai District, Kalasin
  • Ko Pha-ngan District, Surat Thani
  • Ko Samui District, Surat Thani
  • La-ngu District, Satun
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phichit District, Phichit
  • Mueang Roi Et District, Roi Et
  • Mueang Sisaket District, Sisaket
  • Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani
  • Nong Phai District, Phetchabun
  • Nong Ya Plong District, Phetchaburi
  • Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Phu Suan Sai National Park
  • Phu Wiang District, Khon Kaen
  • Pua District, Nan
  • Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi
  • San Pa Tong District, Chiang Mai
  • Saphan Sung District, Bangkok
  • Seka District, Bueng Kan
  • Srinagarindra District, Phatthalung
  • Sung Noen District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Tha Tako District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Thong Pha Phum District, Kanchanaburi
  • Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
  • Umphang District, Tak
  • Watthana Nakhon District, Sa Kaeo
Range map of Xenopeltis unicolor in Thailand