Species of Thailand

Common sunbeam snake

Xenopeltis unicolor, Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt, 1827

(In Thai: งูแสงอาทิตย์, ngu saeng aatit)

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)

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)


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

Range Map

Distribution map of Common sunbeam snake, Xenopeltis unicolor in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Na San District, Surat Thani
  • Ban Phaeo District, Samut Sakhon
  • Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi
  • Bang Bo District, Samut Prakan
  • Bang Khla District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Khun Thian District, Bangkok
  • Bang Kruai District, Nonthaburi
  • Bang Lamung District, Chonburi
  • Bang Nam Priao District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Yai District, Nonthaburi
  • Bangkok Yai District, Bangkok
  • Bueng Kum District, Bangkok
  • Chiang Klang District, Nan
  • Chok Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Doi Suthep - Pui National Park
  • Don Mueang District, Bangkok
  • Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Hang Chat District, Lampang
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Huai Yot District, Trang
  • Kaeng Hang Maeo District, Chanthaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kathu District, Phuket
  • Khanom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • 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
  • Laplae District, Uttaradit
  • Lat Lum Kaeo District, Pathum Thani
  • Mae Ramat District, Tak
  • Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Sot District, Tak
  • Mueang Chachoengsao District, Chachoengsao
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Loei District, Loei
  • Mueang Lopburi District, Lopburi
  • Mueang Mukdahan District, Mukdahan
  • Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga
  • Mueang Phatthalung District, Phatthalung
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phichit District, Phichit
  • Mueang Phitsanulok District, Phitsanulok
  • Mueang Phrae District, Phrae
  • Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
  • Mueang Prachinburi District, Prachinburi
  • Mueang Rayong District, Rayong
  • Mueang Roi Et District, Roi Et
  • Mueang Sisaket District, Sisaket
  • Mueang Surat Thani District, Surat Thani
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Mueang Trang District, Trang
  • Mueang Ubon Ratchathani District, Ubon Ratchathani
  • Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani
  • Mueang Uthai Thani District, Uthai Thani
  • Na Yong District, Trang
  • Nong Chok District, Bangkok
  • Nong Na Kham District, Khon Kaen
  • Nong Phai District, Phetchabun
  • Nong Ya Plong District, Phetchaburi
  • Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Panare District, Pattani
  • Phanom District, Surat Thani
  • Phato District, Chumphon
  • Phi Phi Islands
  • Photharam District, Ratchaburi
  • Phra Khanong District, Bangkok
  • Phra Thong Kham District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum
  • Phu Suan Sai National Park
  • Phu Wiang District, Khon Kaen
  • Pua District, Nan
  • Sai Mai District, Bangkok
  • Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi
  • Samoeng District, Chiang Mai
  • San Pa Tong District, Chiang Mai
  • San Sai District, Chiang Mai
  • Sanam Chai Khet District, Chachoengsao
  • Sangkha District, Surin
  • Saphan Sung District, Bangkok
  • Saraphi District, Chiang Mai
  • Satuek District, Buriram
  • Seka District, Bueng Kan
  • Si Chiang Mai District, Nong Khai
  • Si Maha Phot District, Prachinburi
  • Si Racha District, Chonburi
  • Si Satchanalai District, Sukhothai
  • Sikhoraphum District, Surin
  • Soi Dao District, Chanthaburi
  • Song Khwae District, Nan
  • Srinagarindra District, Phatthalung
  • Sung Noen District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Takhli District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Tha Mai District, Chanthaburi
  • Tha Takiap District, Chachoengsao
  • Tha Tako District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Thawat Buri District, Roi Et
  • Thon Buri District, Bangkok
  • Thong Pha Phum District, Kanchanaburi
  • Thung Khru District, Bangkok
  • Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
  • Thung Song District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Umphang District, Tak
  • Watthana Nakhon District, Sa Kaeo
  • Wiang Chai District, Chiang Rai
  • Wichian Buri District, Phetchabun
  • Wiset Chai Chan District, Ang Thong
Range map of Xenopeltis unicolor in Thailand