Sonoran sidewinder

This photograph of a Sonoran sidewinder was taken at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Desert Duets: Sidewinder Info Web Page

Information about the Sidewinder

Sonoran sidewinders are one of several kinds of rattlesnakes that live in the Sonoran Desert. Their pale gray, tan, or pinkish gray skin helps them camouflage on the desert sand and soil. The bottom rattle on the Sonoran sidewinders’ tail is black. Adults grow up to 32 inches long.

Like all rattlesnakes, sidewinders have a diamond-shaped head. Sidewinders have a distinctive triangular-shaped horn or scale of skin over each eye. Their nickname is the “Horned Rattlesnake.” Some scientists think their horns offer them protection from bright sunlight. Others think the horns protect them when they dig in the sand.

During the daytime, Sonoran sidewinders burrow under the sand or seek shade under low bushes. At night, sidewinders form craters in the sand from which they stalk their prey. Sidewinders use their venom to kill their prey. They eat lizards and small rodents like kangaroo rats and mice. They bite their prey and inject venom then follow it until it dies.

The sidewinder has a distinctive way of moving that helps it move quickly on loose, hot sand. It loops its body which it thrusts forward and to the side of its head. Then it moves its head forward and repeats this motion over and over. This S-shaped curve results in sideways movement, which gives this rattlesnake its name. Sidewinders leave J-shaped tracks in the sand.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 28 July 2012