Burmese Python: Species Profile & Care Guide

| Updated: September 20, 2023
Albino burmese python baby being handled

Burmese pythons are one of the world’s largest and most fascinating snakes. They are native to Southeast Asia, where they inhabit a variety of habitats, from jungles to marshes. They are also popular pets among reptile enthusiasts, who admire their beautiful patterns, rapid growth, and docile temperament. However, these magnificent creatures also pose a serious threat to the ecosystem of South Florida, where they have become an invasive species due to irresponsible pet owners and accidental escapes.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the Burmese python, covering its natural history, behavior, diet, reproduction, health, and conservation status. We will also discuss the impact of the Burmese python invasion on Florida’s wildlife and restoration efforts. Whether you are a curious animal lover, a potential pet owner, or a concerned citizen, we hope this article will help you learn more about this amazing snake and its role in the natural world.

What is a Burmese Python?

A Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is a large non-venomous constrictor snake that belongs to the family Pythonidae. It is one of the six species of pythons that are found in Asia, along with the Indian python (Python molurus), the reticulated python (Python reticulatus), the Timor python (Python timoriensis), the Sumatran short-tailed python (Python curtus), and the Bornean short-tailed python (Python breitensteini). Until 2009, the Burmese python was considered a subspecies of the Indian python, but genetic studies have shown that it is a distinct species.

The Burmese python has a dark-colored body with many brown blotches bordered by black along its back and sides. The blotches vary in shape and size depending on the individual snake and its geographic origin. Some Burmese pythons have a reddish or yellowish hue to their skin, while others are more gray or greenish. The belly is usually white or cream-colored with dark markings. The head is triangular and has a prominent ridge above the eye. The eyes are relatively small and have vertical pupils. The nostrils are located on the top of the snout and have heat-sensitive pits that help the snake detect warm-blooded prey. The mouth is large and can stretch to swallow prey items bigger than the snake’s head.

The Burmese python is one of the heaviest snakes in the world, second only to South America’s green anaconda (Eunectes murinus). It can reach lengths of up to 23 feet (7 meters) and weights of up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms), with a girth as big as a telephone pole. However, such giant specimens are rare in the wild and are more common in captivity, where they are overfed and have less exercise. The average length of a wild Burmese python is about 12 feet (3.7 meters), with females being slightly longer and heavier than males.

There are also dwarf forms of Burmese pythons that occur on some islands in Indonesia, such as Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. These pythons are much smaller than their mainland counterparts, averaging about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and rarely exceeding 8 feet (2.5 meters). They also have different color patterns, contrasting the dark and light blotches more. The reason for this size difference is not fully understood, but it may be related to limited food resources, predation pressure, or genetic isolation on the islands.

Where Do Burmese Pythons Live?

The Burmese python has a wide distribution across Southern and Southeast Asia, ranging from eastern India to southern China and from Nepal to Indonesia. It can be found in countries such as Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, China, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

The Burmese python is adaptable to different habitats and climates within its range. It prefers moist and warm environments with plenty of cover and water sources. It can be found everywhere, from tropical rainforests to grasslands, swamps, marshes, and wetlands.

What Do Burmese Pythons Eat?

Burmese pythons are dietary generalists, meaning they can eat a wide variety of animals depending on their availability and size. They are ambush predators that use their camouflage and heat-sensing pits to locate and strike their prey. They then wrap their powerful coils around the prey and squeeze until it suffocates or dies of cardiac arrest. They swallow their prey whole, starting from the head, and use their flexible jaws and teeth to maneuver it down their throat.

Thanks to their strong stomach acids and enzymes, they can digest almost everything, including bones, fur, feathers, and scales. They can also go for long periods without food but will eat regularly when prey is abundant.

In their native range, Burmese pythons feed on mammals such as rodents, rabbits, monkeys, deer, pigs, civets, and porcupines; birds such as pigeons, doves, ducks, chickens, and peafowl.

How to Care for a Burmese Python?

Burmese pythons are not suitable pets for beginners or casual snake owners. They require a lot of space, specialized equipment, and responsible handling. They also have complex needs for their health and well-being. If you are interested in keeping a Burmese python as a pet, you should do extensive research and preparation before acquiring one. You should also check your local laws and regulations regarding the ownership of large constrictors, as they may be banned or restricted in some areas.

large albino burmese python in a natural looking enclosure

Here are some basic guidelines on how to care for a Burmese python:


Burmese pythons need a large, secure enclosure that accommodates their size and activity level. The minimum size for an adult Burmese python is 8 x 4 x 4 feet (2.4 x 1.2 x 1.2 meters), but bigger is always better. The enclosure should be made of sturdy materials, such as wood, metal, or PVC, that can withstand the snake’s strength and weight. It should also have a lockable lid or door to prevent escapes. The enclosure should have adequate ventilation, but not too much that it causes drafts or humidity loss.


Burmese pythons need a substrate that retains moisture and provides comfort and enrichment. Some good options are cypress mulch, coconut husk, orchid bark, or newspaper. The substrate should be at least 4 inches (10 cm) deep to allow the snake to burrow and hide. It should also be spot-cleaned regularly and completely replaced every month or so.


Burmese pythons need a temperature gradient in their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. The warm end of the enclosure should have a basking spot of around 90°F (32°C), while the cool end should be around 80°F (27°C). The temperature can drop to around 75°F (24°C) at night. You can use heat lamps, ceramic heat emitters, heat mats, or radiant heat panels to provide heat sources. Make sure to use thermostats and thermometers to monitor and control the temperature levels.


Burmese pythons need a humidity level of around 60% to 70% in their enclosure to maintain their hydration and skin health. You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity level. You can increase the humidity by misting the enclosure daily, adding a large water bowl, using a humid hide box, or using a humidifier or fogger. You can also soak the snake in lukewarm water once a week or before shedding.


Burmese pythons do not need any special lighting in their enclosure, as they are mostly nocturnal and get enough vitamin D from their diet. However, you can use a low-wattage LED light to provide the snake a natural day/night cycle. The light should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours.


Burmese pythons need access to fresh and clean water at all times. You should provide a large, sturdy water bowl that can hold enough water for the snake to drink and soak in. The water bowl should be placed on the cool end of the enclosure and cleaned and refilled daily.


Burmese pythons need at least two hide boxes in their enclosure, one on the warm and one on the cool end. The hide boxes should be large enough for the snake to fit inside comfortably but snug enough to make them feel secure. You can use commercial hide boxes, plastic tubs, cardboard boxes, or hollow logs as hide boxes. You can also add some moist sphagnum moss or paper towels inside one of the hide boxes to create a humid hide for shedding.


Burmese pythons need some enrichment items in their enclosure to stimulate their senses and prevent boredom. You can add some branches, vines, plants, rocks, or other decorations to create some visual and tactile interest for the snake. You can also occasionally vary the substrate type, temperature, humidity, lighting, or feeding schedule to provide some environmental enrichment for the snake.


Burmese pythons are carnivores that feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small animals in the wild. In captivity, you can feed them frozen/thawed prey items that are appropriate for their size and age. Hatchlings can eat mice or rat pups once a week, while juveniles can eat rats or rabbits every two weeks. Adults can eat rabbits or pigs every three to four weeks.


Burmese pythons are generally docile and tolerant of handling, but they can also be defensive or aggressive if they feel threatened or stressed. You should handle your snake with care and respect and avoid handling it when it is shedding, digesting, or gravid (pregnant). Due to their large size and strength, you should never handle your snake alone or around your neck. You should always have at least one other person with you who can assist you if needed.


Burmese pythons are relatively hardy snakes that do not suffer many health problems if kept properly. However, they can still develop some common issues such as respiratory infections, mites, parasites, scale rot, mouth rot, burns, injuries, obesity, or egg binding.

What are the Different Morphs of Burmese Pythons?

A morph is a variation in an animal’s color or pattern caused by a genetic mutation. Morphs can occur naturally in the wild or be artificially produced by selective breeding in captivity. Burmese pythons have a number of different morphs that are popular among pet owners and breeders. Some of these morphs are:

  • Albino: This is one of the Burmese pythons’ most common and oldest morphs. It is caused by a recessive mutation that prevents the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, eyes, and hair. Albino Burmese pythons have a white or cream background with yellow, orange, or red blotches. Their eyes are usually red or pink. The pattern may fade with age.
  • Granite: This is another recessive morph that affects the pattern of the snake. Granite Burmese pythons have small and irregular blotches that are scattered over the body. They also have unique head markings and a plain belly. The background color can vary from gray to green to gold.
  • Green: This is a recessive morph that affects the color of the snake. Green Burmese pythons have an olive green background color that develops as they grow older. They may also have reduced or absent patterns on their body and head.
  • Pied: This is a rare and striking morph that is caused by a dominant mutation. Pied Burmese pythons have large patches of white on their body, with only a few colored blotches remaining. The amount and distribution of white can vary from snake to snake. Some may have white heads, while others may have white tails or bellies.
  • Dwarf: This is not a color or pattern morph but a size morph. Dwarf Burmese pythons are smaller than normal Burmese pythons, reaching only about 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) in length. They are derived from island populations of Burmese pythons that have adapted to limited food resources and predation pressure. Dwarf Burmese pythons can have any color or pattern morph, such as albino, granite, green, or pied.

These are just some of the many morphs of Burmese pythons that exist today. There are also combinations of different morphs, such as albino granite, green pied, or dwarf albino.

Some morphs are more common and affordable than others, while some are very rare and expensive.

Certain morphs can also affect the health and behavior of the snake, so it is important to do your research before buying or breeding a Burmese python morph.

How Do Burmese Pythons Affect Florida’s Ecosystem?

Pretty much everyone has heard about the Burmese python problem in Florida at some point in the last decade. They’ve created a negative impact on Florida’s ecosystem as they compete with and prey on native species, disrupt the food web and alter the physical environment. They are apex predators, meaning they have no natural enemies in Florida except for humans and alligators. Many adult burms can even go toe-to-toe with an alligator, although they’d probably like to avoid it.

They are also dietary generalists, meaning they can eat almost anything that fits in their mouths. They have been known to consume more than 100 different species of animals in Florida, including some endangered or threatened ones.

Some of the animals that Burmese pythons eat in Florida are:

  • Mammals: rabbits, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, foxes, deer, pigs, rodents, cats, dogs, etc.
  • Birds: pigeons, doves, ducks, chickens, peafowl, egrets, herons, ibises, spoonbills, wood storks, etc.
  • Reptiles: lizards, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, alligators, snakes (including venomous ones), etc.
  • Fish: catfish, bass, sunfish, mullet, etc.

By eating these animals, Burmese pythons reduce their populations and affect their roles in the ecosystem. For example, rabbits are important prey for many native predators, such as bobcats and panthers. By eating rabbits, Burmese pythons deprive these predators of their food source and may cause them to starve or migrate. Similarly, birds are important seed dispersers and pollinators for many plants. Burmese pythons disrupt plant reproduction and diversity in the Everglades by eating birds.

Burmese pythons also affect the physical environment by altering the vegetation and water flow. They can damage the vegetation by crushing it with their weight or by digging burrows for shelter and nesting. They can also affect the water flow by blocking culverts or drainage pipes with their bodies or nests. These changes can have consequences for the hydrology and fire regimes of the Everglades.


Burmese pythons are awesome animals that have fascinated humans for centuries. They are among the largest and most beautiful snakes in the world, with a variety of colors and patterns. They are also intelligent and curious creatures that can learn and adapt to different situations. They have amazing abilities like constricting their prey, sensing heat, and swimming underwater. They are also part of Southeast Asia’s rich biodiversity and culture, where they are revered and respected by many people.

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Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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