A relatively small, slender, venomous snake, the orange-naped snake (Furina ornata) is named for the orange-red band across the back of its neck. The rest of the head and neck is dark brown to black, while the body is brown to reddish-brown, with dark edges to the scales that give a fine reticulated pattern (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The lips and the underside of the orange-naped snake’s body are white (2) (5).
Although it is a relatively small snake, the orange-naped snake is the second largest member of the genus Furina (3). As in other Furina species, its neck is a little narrower than its wide, slightly flattened head (2), and it has small eyes and smooth, glossy scales (4). The orange-naped snake has a pair of short fangs at the front of its mouth, and a cylindrical, pointed tail (4).
Orange-naped snakes from some northern areas have been reported to be darker than those from further south (2). In most Furina species, females grow larger than the males (7).
- Also known as
- moon snake.
- Aspidomorphus christieanus, Brachysoma simile, Denisonia bancrofti, Elaps ornatus, Furina christieanus, Lunelaps christianus, Lunelaps christieanus, Pseudelaps christieanus.
- Snout-vent length: 12.8 - 50.8 cm (2)
- Total length: up to 70 cm (3)
Orange-naped snake biology
Although the orange-naped snake is venomous, Furina species are not generally considered to be dangerous to humans (4). The orange-naped snake is nocturnal, and its diet consists of day-active lizards, particularly skinks (3) (4) (5) (6), which it may capture as they sleep (4). This snake is often seen on roads at night, probably using them to warm itself up (5).
Relatively little is known about the breeding behaviour of the orange-naped snake, but it is thought to lay around three to six eggs per clutch (3) (5). It is possible that the orange-naped snake is similar to the closely related red-naped snake (Furina diadema), in which the young snakes grow rapidly and reach sexual maturity in the year following their birth (7).
Orange-naped snake range
The orange-naped snake is the most widespread Furina species (3). It occurs across much of Australia, including Western Australia, the Northern Territory, northern Queensland and northern South Australia (1) (2) (4) (5) (6). This species is also found on some offshore islands, including Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia (5).
Species with a similar range
Orange-naped snake habitat
A terrestrial species (4) (6), the orange-naped snake is usually found in woodland, grassland, shrubland and spinifex desert (3) (4) (6). It is generally found in quite arid areas (4) (6), and often shelters in cracks in the soil, or beneath rocks or fallen timber (3) (4).
Species found in a similar habitat
Orange-naped snake status
The orange-naped snake has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
Orange-naped snake threats
There is little information currently available on the potential threats to the orange-naped snake.
Orange-naped snake conservation
There are no specific conservation measures currently known to be in place for the orange-naped snake, and this species has not been listed on the Australian Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. However, this small snake may receive some protection in parts of its range, such as on Barrow Island, where all snakes are protected (5).
Find out more
Find out more about the orange-naped snake and its conservation:
More information on conservation in Australia:
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- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Active at night.
- Marked with a criss-cross or network-like pattern.
The Reptile Database (November, 2012)
Storr, G.M. (1981) The genus Furina (Serpentes: Elapidae) in Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, 9(2): 119-123.
O’Shea, M. (2008) Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
Wilson, S. (2005) A Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland. Reed New Holland, Sydney.
Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
Northern Territory Government: Common snakes of the Northern Territory - Orange-naped snake (November, 2012)
Shine, R. (1981) Ecology of Australian elapid snakes of the genera Furina and Glyphodon. Journal of Herpetology, 15(2): 219-224.