Chrysopelea ornata is a colubrid snake found in both South and Southeast Asia. It is, along with the other species in its genus Chrysopelea, very unusual in that it is capable of a type of gliding flight. It is also rear-fanged. Currently, three subspecies are recognized. The snake’s striking looks and capability of gliding make it a popular choice for captivity.
Chrysopelea ornata is usually green in color, with black cross-hatching and yellow or gold colored accents. The body, though slender, is far less so than in other tree snakes. It has a flattened head with constricted neck, a blunt nose and large eyes with round pupils.
The lateral, sharp and pronounced keeled condition of the ventrals in association with the normal, not enlarged, vertebral row of scales distinguish this snake.
This snake ranges from 11.5 to 130 cm long. Maturity is reached at about 1 m in length. The tail is about one-fourth of the total length.
This species is considered mildly venomous, with no confirmed cases of medically significant envenomation. It is not considered dangerous to man.
C. ornata, like others of its genus, glides or parachutes. This is presumably done to cover distances faster, to escape predators, to catch prey, or to move around in forests. Flying snakes usually parachute from tree to tree, but sometimes launch themselves from trees onto the ground. They have been known to cross as much as 100 m.
It does this by climbing up to a height, which it does easily by virtue of its keeled belly scales, and then launching itself into mid-air. The snake contracts its ventral surface inwards to form a U-shaped concave depression along the entire length of their bodies, holding the outer edges of the ventral scales rigid. This concave surface acts like a parachute, and increases air resistance, allowing the snake to glide forward with the thrust of its launch. The snake undulates through the air, in a swimming-like motion. It holds the tail rigidly upwards, and by twisting the tail from side to side, it attains balance. This motion allows it to propel forward, landing clumsily at the end of its flight.
Source: Thai National Parks