Black Racer Snake
Welcome to Our Black Racer Page
Reptile: Blue Runner, Black Runner - Beneficial and Beautiful
Black Racers are very fast-moving, non-venomous, black snakes with a bluish cast to their scales. Other local common names for this handsome snake are Black Runner, Blue Racer, and Blue Runner.
Most Racers do not enjoy being handled. Black racers eat mostly mice and rats, so are extremely beneficial snakes to have around.
This page focuses on the Southern Black Racer and its sub-species which are found in Louisiana. The Southern Black Racer occurs in habitats all over Louisiana and throughout most of the Southeastern United States.
You'll find many photos and lots of information about these snakes in Louisiana. There is also a poll, so you can show how you feel about this beneficial and beautiful reptile. Most of the photographs were taken in our 9 acre backyard habitat.
In Louisiana, Black Racers
are sometimes called Black Runners & also Blue Racers because of the blue tinge of their scales. There are many common names for & subspecies of Coluber constrictor and also one species called the Blue Runner which does not live in Louisiana. Racers move very quickly and can be out of sight in the blink of an eye.
There are five subspecies of Black Racers that occur in Louisiana. They are:
~ The Southern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor priapus which is characterized by a black dorsum and slate gray or black venter;
~ The Black-masked racer, Coluber constrictor latrunculus, characterized by a slate gray dorsum, a bluish gray venter and a broad black stripe behind the eye;
~ The Eastern yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor flaviventris characterized by an olive green dorsum and a light yellow venter;
~ The Tan racer, Coluber constrictor etheridgei, characterized by a light tan dorsum with some light spotting and a grayish white venter; and
~ The Buttermilk racer, Coluber constrictor anthicus, characterized by a blue, blue-black or blue-green dorsum with a variable amount of light spotting and a grayish white venter.
Despite their Latin name, Racers are NOT constrictors. They hunt prey, with their head held high, when it is spotted, they race towards it, seize it and then swallow it alive. They may chew on larger prey until they stop struggling.
Racers lay clutches of 6 to 18 granular white eggs from June through September in such places as soft moist soil beside decaying logs, in decaying wood pulp or in depressions in clumps of grass. The hatchlings don't look like the adults and have light-colored bodies with dark blotches along the back and sides.
(reference: Dundee, Harold A. and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana)
Racer Subspecies of Louisiana
A. Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus
B. Black-masked Racer, Coluber constrictor latrunculus
C. Eastern yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor flaviventris
D. Tan racer, Coluber constrictor etheridgei
E. Buttermilk racer, Coluber constrictor anthicus
F. Juvenile racer, Coluber constrictor
*photo reference: Dundee, Harold A. and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana
Black Racer Poll
Do you have Black Racers (Coluber constrictor) in your area?
The photo was taken early in the spring, when the weather was still cool. This Black Racer was still a little sluggish and is trying to warm its body in the sun. In Louisiana they appear in late February or early March, depending on how hard the winter was.
Since black racers are normally so fast, early spring, when they are sluggish, is a good time to photograph them.
Black Racers hunt down their prey. They move quickly along the forest floor, with their head held high, always alert. When prey is detected, Racers quickly grab it and swallow it whole, sometimes while it is still alive.
The "constrictor" in their scientific name is a misnomer. I suppose, it was once thought that they squeezed their prey, but now scientists know that they don't. However, the name stuck.
Notice the hint of blue where the sun is hitting the scales of this young Black Racer. This is why some people in Louisiana call them Blue Runners.
There is also a species of Racer which inhabits other parts of the United States which is called the Blue Racer. Common names can be deceiving, with different species being given the same common name or with the same species being called different common names in separate locations.
The odd looking "kinked" posture of this individual is often seen. Some believe that this is a defense mechanism. They look a lot like a fallen branch.
Another defensive reaction is that when threatened, if running away is not successful, they will hide in the brush and rattle their tails in dry leaves, sounding much like a rattlesnake.
Very young black racers are marked differently from the adult of the species. The young are speckled with black, white and tan spots. As they age, they darken into adult coloration.
Black Racers have a reputation for biting when they are caught. It seems that they develop this defense mechanism very early in life as you can see by the picture below. We happily released the little bugger after the brief photo op.
We often encounter these beautiful black snakes as we walk to the river through our woods. The only time we get a chance to photograph them is in early spring or fall when the weather is cool and they are sluggish. During warm weather they are gone in the blink of an eye.
Fall weather does not come to Louisiana until October. During September, when this photo was taken, Black Racers and other snakes are still active.
I came across this one coiled in the weeds in a sunny spot not too far from a hummingbird feeder which was being used by many migrating hummingbirds. Hummingbirds battle over feeders and sometimes knock each other to the ground, so I believe this Racer had positioned itself to take advantage of this.
After its photo op, I chased it away from the feeder. Hopefully it found a more substantial meal like a rat or a mouse.
Herping with Dylan Video
The Northern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor constrictor occurs in the uppermost parts of the southeastern U.S. The Southern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, inhabits most of Louisiana.
Wormsloe Foundation publishes wonderful nature books. In my opinion, this is the best book about snakes of the Southeastern U.S. on the market. The excellent photographs make identification easy and the accurate information gives much insight into the habits and habitat of each species. This book is a must-have for all snake lovers of the Southeast.
Black Racers have round eyes & are non-venomous.
© 2008 Yvonne L B