Black Headed Python - Aspidites melanocephalus (Krefft 1864)
The Nyangumarta aboriginals in the Pilbara call this snake purruyura.
This species is very easy to identify with its shiny black head and distinct banding.

They are often known by common names such as the tar pot snake, rock python etc.

In the winter months they are sometimes observed holding their head in a vertical position and it is thought that the black coloured head serves as a solar panel to heat their entire body without fully emerging from their burrow.

Although their body coloration and pattern does not vary considerably there is noticeable differences in coloration between the ones found here in the Pilbara district of W.A  compared to Black headed pythons found in the Northern Territory and Queensland which tend to have a much darker body colour.
In the south eastern parts of north Queensland there are specimens that have nice distinct orange bands and in my opinion, are quite spectacular.
The occasional specimen is found with a dorsal line where the body bands meet at the peek of the vertebrate.
I have never seen this line on any Pilbara specimens so far and I think this is a trait that more often occurs in the populations further north east of W.A.
Another interesting observation and not so widely known, is that the black headed pythons found in the lower Pilbara coastal areas are a genetically smaller race compared to Blackheads found further up north, in the Northern Territory and in Queensland.
Also of interest is the fact that this western Pilbara morph lack sub-ocular scales and have a single loreal scale as opposed to two and occasionally more, which can be commonly found on BHPs found elsewhere.
A common mistake made by many inexperienced reptile keepers is that all W.A BHPs are of lighter colouration.

While it is true that the Pilbara specimens are of a white, creamy coloration, smaller in size and have single loreals, all other areas forms found in W.A are very similar to specimens found in the Northern Territory.

When disturbed in the wild, Black headed pythons will often hiss and open their mouth slightly but will bite only rarely. When they do occasionally strike it is usually in the form of a head butt only.

People that have been the unlucky recipients of a bite however, can testify to the fact that the blackhead has powerful jaws compared to other pythons of similar size.

It is believed that as a consequence of mainly feeding on reptiles that Black headed pythons lack heat sensing pits on their labial scales.

I have always stated that I believe that they do have such a specialized pit but instead it is located directly under the rostral scale.

I am proud to say that recent research by scientists has now proven the existence of these pits.

Because of the lack of labial pits and their head shape (no distinct head to neck taper) some people have mistaken this python as being venomous.

Combined with the fact that they have distinct body banding, many have been killed on the assumption that they are a tiger snake.
Having had plenty of experience with wild caught Black headed pythons from Queensland and the Northern Territory, I have found that the Pilbara specimens are also far more temperamental and do not adapt to captivity as readily.
Habitat
The Black-headed python is found in the warmer tropical areas of Australia and occupy a wide variety of habitats including sclerophyll forests, vegetated shrubby plains, sparsely vegetated deserts, and rocky laden areas or escarpments.

They shelters in hollow logs, burrows, deep soil cracks, inside termite mounds, under rocks and there crevices.  
Food
Black headed Pythons predominately feed on reptiles including other snakes but will eat mammals.

Although this python's diet is made up of a very high percentage of reptiles than mammals, I believe that the specimens found in the desert areas of the Pilbara eat a much higher percentage of reptiles than Black headed pythons that inhabit the Queensland coastal areas.
Breeding
It is well known that the black head is more difficult to breed in captivity than most other Australian pythons. I personally believe this is because many keepers fail to adequately cool them down during the winter months.

Mating should occur in June or early July.  Clutch numbers on average is about 8 eggs which are physically large compared to the size of other Australian python's eggs.

The average incubation period of the eggs is about 65 days. When mixing water to an incubation medium, it is recommended to keep the moisture content on the side of dry. Many keepers have in the past experienced failure because their eggs have been exposed to higher humidity.

Eggs from Pilbara specimens however are a lot smaller is size and this is also true of the hatchlings (average 45gms). Hatchlings are often notoriously difficult to get voluntarily feeding on rodents first up. If this is experienced and you are faced with having to assist feed, then the good news is that this is one of the easiest species to do this with. Often it is just a case of getting the rodent partially into the throat area and they normally continue on with the process themselves.
Comments
The black headed python is highly desired in captivity and in the past they have commanded rather high price tags.
As there have been many more wild caught specimens made available to the pet industry over recent years, I suspect the price to fall.
Blackheads can be hardy captives and are generally amendable to handling. It is highly advised that keepers do not feed off large fat rodents because blackheads do not tolerate fat very well and many specimens in captivity have died from fatty liver disease from fat accumulation around their heart.
Black headed pythons sometimes display a peculiar resting behaviour in which they lay on their side as if asleep and to the inexperienced new keeper witnessing this for the first time can be disturbing as they can think that their prized reptile has just died.
It is not recommended to house this species together outside breeding times as they have been known on rare occasions to cannibalize on each other.
Over the years there have been some interesting looking specimens found and bred.

We are very fortunate to be the proud owners of a beautifully coloured golden yellow specimen found in the Pilbara often referred to as the bumblebee black-head.

There are also spectacular and very rare albino specimens held in collections overseas and one single specimen currently held privately here in Australia.


All native reptiles here in W.A remain protected under the W.A Wildlife Conservation Act (1950)
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