Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) Culebra herradura


  • English: Horseshoe Whip Snake.
  • Scientific: Hemorrhois hippocrepis (Coluber hippocrepis (Linnaeus 1758).
  • Castilian: Culebra herradura.
  • Catalan: Serp de ferradura.
  • Portuguese: cobra-do-ferradura.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: Found in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, and in southern and central Portugal, southern, eastern and central Spain, Gibraltar, southern Sardinia and Pantelleria Island in Europe. In the island locations, it may have been introduced. Since the early 2000s it has been reported from Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentor. (It could have been introduced there by way of old olive trees imported from mainland Spain).

The Horse-shoe whip snake can reach a length of 180cm although they are often less. They are fairly slender, shy and fast moving. Although mostly diurnal they can also be seen out on warm evenings (crepiscular).

Horseshoe whip snake - Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura
Horseshoe whip snake – Hemorrhois hippocrepis Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura

The body pattern is brighter and more obvious on juveniles with the main colour varying between yellow, off white, olive, grey or sometimes brown, this is marked by large black or brown spots uniformly placed along the dorsal line with smaller alternating spots along the flanks. In adults the paler areas within the pattern are much finer giving an overall darker appearance. (Sometimes very dark almost black). The belly is pale in shades of peach, yellow, orange or red with dark marks openly dispersed near the head and more dense near the tail. The name stems from a shape on the head which looks like a horse shoe with the points facing back.

Horseshoe whip snake - Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura
Horseshoe whip snake – Hemorrhois hippocrepis Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura

Their habitat ranges from coastal plains with low vegetation to dry scrub covered mountains up to 1,800m within the southern part of their range. Most of the population is found below 700m. They also live close to humans in cultivated areas and orchards, hunting around buildings or ruins and making use of dry stone walls. Generally ground dwelling and moving very quickly these snakes are also agile climbers going into bushes or along rough vertical banks and can move along dry stone walls searching the crevices for prey.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, the largest being rats, occasionally taking lizards and small birds. The young eat mainly lizards and also invertebrates. They actively seek out their meal, grasping it in their strong jaws and swallowing it head first. Horseshoe whip snakes may occasionally constrict their prey and do not have fangs or venom. This species of snake will always try and avoid detection, fleeing rapidly from human disturbance, but if cornered and handled will defend itself by hissing and biting.

Horseshoe whip snake - Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura
Horseshoe whip snake – Hemorrhois hippocrepis Coluber hippocrepis – Culebra de Herradura

In warmer zones of their range they may be active throughout the year, otherwise taking a short hibernation period during the colder times between November and March. Mating takes place in the spring with the female then laying a clutch of around 5 or 10 eggs (occasionally more than 20) under a rock, in an existing mammal tunnel or in old wood. Around two months later hatchlings will appear at a length between 15 and 35cm. The females are not sexually mature until they are about 8 years old and the males 5 years.

Similar species: none with these markings.

Note the change in scientific name in recent years Hemorrhois hippocrepis Coluber hippocrepis

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Southern Smooth Snake (Coronella girondica) Culebra Lisa Meridional

  • Non-venomous
  • English: Southern smooth snake.
  • Scientific: Coronella girondica (Daudin 1803).
  • Castilian: Culebra Lisa Meridional.
  • Catalan: Serp llisa meridional.
  • Portuguese: Cobra bordalesa.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: Iberia and much of Mediterranean basin area.

The Southern Smooth Snake is a slim, elegant snake with a rounded body and an average length of around 60cm, some reaching just under a metre. If warm enough then they are active between March and November. They are fairly slow moving and not good at climbing.

Coronella girondica – Culebra Lisa Meridional –2
Southern smooth snake – Coronella girondica – Culebra Lisa Meridional Image shows the two dark stipes below the head.

There is a dark strike from their neck to the rear corner of the eye. The eye itself has an orange / red ring around a circular black pupil. The body colour can vary between grey / brown to ochre with darker bands or blotches crossing the back in a non-uniform way. The underside is a creamy or orangey yellow with a haphazard checkered pattern of dark scales. This colouration is brightest in young ones.

They may be found in dry open scrub lands or rocky hillsides, hedgerows and open woods or around older cultivated trees. They will hide in old vegetation, under rocks and in stone walls. In warm southern areas they can be found in mountain regions but in cooler areas are more lightly to be below 1000m. This species of snake is mainly active in the evenings and at night, although they may be active during the day in wet weather, they are very secretive.

Coronella girondica – Culebra Lisa Meridional –1
Southern smooth snake – Coronella girondica – Culebra Lisa Meridional – Note the similarity to a ladder snake?

They generally eat small lizards, with skinks, geckos, smaller snakes and occasionally mammals also taken, young ones eat insects. Most of their prey is crushed by constriction and is swallowed head first.

Coupling takes place in spring with between 4 to 16 eggs being produced during the summer, these take 6 to 9 weeks to hatch, appearing in late August or September. The young tend to be active during the day and only measure 10 to 20cm.

The average life span for Coronella girondica is around 15 years. They reach sexual maturity when they are 4 years old.

Similar species

  • Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) Lacks the strongly patterned and colourful underside.
  • False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) Often has a bold dark collar.
  • Young Ladder Snake (Elaphe scalaris) Has a more bold and regular ladder pattern on back.

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Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda

  • Venomous (Back fangs).
  • English: Montpellier Snake.
  • Scientific: Malpolon monspessulanus (Hermann 1804).
  • Castilian: Culebra bastarda.
  • Catalan: Serp-verda.
  • Portuguese: Cobra-rateira.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: Iberia (excluding parts of north), Southern France and selected areas within the Mediterranean basin area.

The Montpellier Snake can reach up to an overall length of 240cm although they average at less than 200cm and this species has the ability to emit a loud and persistent hiss if threatened.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda3
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda Young snake reaering up “cobra” like

One striking feature of its narrow head is its aggressive looking face. This is created by a very pronounced “eye-brow” over a large eye, sometimes further accentuated by a white mark. They are terrestrial, very agile and active during the day though they can also become crepuscular during the heat of summer.

The colouration of the adults is usually a uniform grey, olive, greenish, blackish or red / brown. There may also be dark or light spots. The belly is often a yellowish shade and blotched with dark markings. The juveniles may be the same as the adult in colour otherwise they have fine dark spots along their flanks and larger irregular marks along the back.

If disturbed or cornered they can raise their heads in a threatening manner as well as hissing, flattening out their neck, so appearing very aggressive. Receiving a venomous bite is very unlikely unless you are handling this snake as the fangs are at the very back of the top jaw whereby it has to have a very good grip of its prey for them to be effective The venom can create symptoms that pass after a few hours including numbness, stiffness, swelling and possibly fever.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda2
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda Juvenile caught in a glass.

They are incredibly adaptable in their habitat type from coastal sand dunes and salt-marshes to mountains of 2,150m altitude. Their preference is for sandy or rocky open terrain with adequate plant cover and rock or log piles for refuge. They may however be seen in agricultural areas, river banks and woodland perimeters.

Part of their ability to live in such a variation of eco-systems is their wide variety of prey items. They will eat mainly lizards (small and even Ocellated, which get quite large), geckos but also small birds, chicks of ground nesting birds, rats, mice, small rabbits and other snakes. Their prey is killed by venom from fangs situated at the back of the jaw, meaning that they need a good grip before this can be effective. The young eat invertebrates.

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda4
Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) Culebra bastarda See the white eyestripe?

Breeding takes place between April and June after emerging from hibernation, with males often battling over a mate. Approximately one month later the females lays between 4 to 14 eggs (sometimes up to 20). These may be placed in split tree trunks, under rocks, under dead leaves or in unused burrows of rabbit or bee-eater. They also sometimes use communal areas to deposit their eggs. After about 2 months the hatchlings appear and are 20-36cm in length. They reach sexual maturity at between 3 to 5 years of age.

The males can live for 25 years in the wild whereas the female is shorter lived, perhaps to 15 years.

Similar species: The uniform colouring and size may be taken for a Grass Snake but the details of the face are very distinctive.

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S’Albufera de Mallorca Natural Park

  • Region: Islas Baleares.
  • Island: Mallorca
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1988.
  • Park surface area: 1,646 hectares.
  • Villages: Muro and Sa Pobla.

Points of interest

S’Albufera de Mallorca Natural Park is a Wetland Area of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, and is included in the EU Natura 2000 Network both as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive. It is the largest and most important wetland area in the Balearic Islands. Made up mainly of wet grassland and marsh.

The origins of the wetland date back to ancient times, and its surface area and features have fluctuated with changing sea levels. While part of the grassland area developed during the Tertiary Era, the current wetlands were formed less than 100,000 years ago. The coastal dunes are considerably more recent, forming over the last 10,000 years or so.

Water is the basis of S’Albufera’s great biodiversity. Water and soil moisture allow vegetation to grow continuously, which varies depending on depth, proximity to the sea and the nature of the soil. The nature park gets most of its fresh water from streams. The influx of seawater in summer is not significant, but it has a significant effect on flora and fauna.

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Reed (Phragmites australis), rush edge (Cladium mariscus) and cob reed (Thypa spp.) dominate the vegetation. In the canals you can find aquatic plants such as the crested pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) and the rough horn leaf (Ceratophyllum demersum). Rushes (Juncus sp.) And samphire (Salicornia sp.) Grow in the salt water marsh. Among the tree species represented are the white poplar (Populus alba), the elm (Ulmus spp.) And the tamarisk (Tamarix sp.) are present.

The vegetation of the dunes is adapted to the harsh conditions of the environment, including the dune funnel-shaped daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), Peu de Milà, a Mediterranean species of the sparrow-tongue family (Thymelaea velutina), and the coastal juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus macrocarpa).

With a total of over 200 species there is also an enormous variety of mushrooms and funghi. One of them, Psathyrella halofila, was only discovered in S’Albufera in 1992.

As for the fauna, the river eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the mullet are particularly noteworthy among the fish. The Iberian water frog (Pelophylax perezi) and reptiles such as the viper (Natrix maura) and the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) are found in large numbers.

The total of 22 mammal species include rats, mice and several species of bats.

Invertebrates are also very diverse with many species of dragonflies, beetles and over 450 species of moths.

Over 300 different bird species have been observed in the area and around 60 are resident or species represented in summer that reproduce in the nature park. More than 10,000 birds overwinter in S’Albufera: ducks, herons and also large flocks of starlings. The nature park is an important stopover for many migratory birds, many of which are only guests for a few days, such as teal ducks, swallows … and even, sometimes, cranes.

Information/Visitors Centers

Can Bateman Interpretation Centre is open to the public from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm all the year, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The visitor centre is close to the park entrance (6 KM southeast of Alcudia) but can only be reached by foot. The centre provides permits to visit the park and general information for the area and its Wildlife. there is an exhibition housed in the Can Bateman.

Can Bateman was built in 1870 which used to belong to Mr Bateman, one of the Englishmen with a license to reclaim land from the wetlands. Restored in 1991. The building once contained the pumps and machinery and was also used as a paper mill making paper from reeds.

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Ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentera Natural Park

  • Region: Islas Baleares.
  • Islands: Eivissa and Formentera. (Ibiza)
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2001.
  • Park surface land area: 2752.5 hectares.
  • Park aquatic area: 14,028 hectares.
  • Special Bird Protection Area ( ZEPA ).
  • Nature reserve since 1995.
  • Natural Area of ​​Special Interest ( ANEI ) of the Law of Natural Spaces of the Balearic Government.
  • Humid area within the RAMSAR agreement .
  • Heritage of Unesco (since 1999).
  • Natura 2000 Network of the European Union.
  • Towns and Villages: Sant Josep de sa Talaia and Formentera.

Points of interest

Located between islands of Eivissa and Formentera, the Ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentera Natural Park covers the channel that separates the two islands and also part of the land masses and old salt flats. This Natural Park is a prime example of the Mediterranean’s rich biodiversity. It is an important rest area for countless birds along their migratory paths and a nesting ground. The area includes a diverse range of land and marine habitats of great ecological, historical and cultural value.

The territory comprises areas of the old salt flats of Ibiza, in the municipality of Sant Josep de sa Talaia and the salt flats of Formentera. Within the fauna the birdlife stands out, especially the flamingos , which are resident all year.

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On land, the natural park boasts a magnificent representation of most of the existing plant formations in the Balearic Islands totalling almost 200 different species. These include Mediterranean pine groves, coastal savin groves, glasswort beds and the halophilic plants that surround the ponds, the dune systems and the coastal plants found along the cliffs.

The sea accounts for approximately 85% of the park’s area and is characterised by the ecological importance of its underwater Posidonia oceanica beds. This marine plant ensures the continued survival of the fish populations and other sea life. Moreover, it oxygenates the waters, keeping them clean and clear, while sheltering the beaches from the erosive effects of the waves and maintaining the natural dynamics of the dune systems.


Some 210 bird species have been catalogued in the natural park. Particularly worthy of note are the aquatic bird populations, including the flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), the black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), the shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), and seafaring birds such as the Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) and the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus). The lagoon, Estany Pudent de Formentera, boasts one of the largest communities of the black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) in Europe.

Other animal species worthy of note in the park’s land areas include the Eivissa wall lizard (Podarcis pityusensis), which is endemic to these islands and appears on the other islets in different subspecies; the large garden dormouse (Elyomis quercinus ophiusae) on Formentera and many different endemic beetle and snail species.

Salt extraction

Ses Salines (the salt flats) are characterised by their pink and violet colouration, especially in the summer. For Formentera’s inhabitants they are a major landmark and very important in the recent history of the island because of the salt industry. They may have been in operation since ancient times, but it is not until the 13th century that the first written references are to be found. In 1873 they were first acquired by the Majorcan Antoni Marroig and later by Salinera Española SA, a company that operated them until 1984. Ses Salines is a complex system that made use of S’Estany Pudent to create a seawater channel around it in order to achieve a higher salt concentration. This water was then pumped, using different mechanisms, to the system of ponds where the salt crystallised and was then extracted. They were declared of historical cultural interest in 2004, being the island’s only industry before the advent of tourism.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centre d’Interpretació de Sant Francesc (Eivissa)

The Sant Francesc Interpretation Center is the ideal place to get to know the values of the Ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentera Natural Park. Immersed within the Natural Park itself, it is part of the outbuildings of the church of Sant Francesc de s’Estany in the municipality of Sant Josep de sa Talaia.

The Interpretation Center offers visitors all the information they need about the Natural Park: environmental values, itineraries, permits, restrictions, agenda of activities, routes and guided tours of the center, educational possibilities…

Centre d’Interpretació de Can Marroig (Formentera)

Can Marroig Interpretation Center is the ideal place to learn about the Ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentra Natural Park. There is an excellent exhibition showing the attractions of a natural park where the oldest Posidonia oceanica meadows, two salt mines and unique endemic species of these islands are found.


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The Cabrera Archipelago Maritime Terrestrial National Park

  • Parc Nacional Maritimoterrestre de l’Arxipèlag de Cabrera (Catalan).
  • Parque Nacional Marítimo-Terrestre del Archipiélago de Cabrera (Spanish).
  • Region: Islas Baleares (Palma de Mallorca).
  • Declared a National Park: 1991.
  • Park surface area: 90,800 hectares.
  • Islands that make up the park: Estells de Fora, S’Imperial, Cabrera, Ses Bledes, Na Redona, Conillera, S’Esponja, Na Plana, Illot Pla, Na Pobra, Na Foradada.

Points of interest

The Cabrera Archipelago Maritime Terrestrial National Park includes the whole of the Cabrera Archipelago in the Balearic Islands. It is located in the south of Mallorca, ten nautical miles from the port of Colonia de Sant Jordi (ses Salines).The park is one of the largest in Spain but due to its remoteness it attracts relatively few visitors. Endangered animals such as turtles and whales come under the parks protection and rare species of fish and corals can be found in the underwater caves.

The islands are unpopulated but there are always park staff, biologists and other scientists on site. The archipelago has great natural value and the coastal landscape of Cabrera is considered to be one of the best preserved on the Spanish coast. The islands are inhabited by important colonies of seabirds and other endemic species and due to the abundance and variety of birds, the park has also been declared a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds.

Within the limits of the National Park, sport fishing is prohibited including underwater fishing. It is also forbidden to disembark, except at the main dock in the port of Cabrera.

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Woody shrubs with leathery and small leaves predominate, forming the garrigue, a scrubland perfectly adapted to the rigors of the Mediterranean climate. There are several endemic species: Balearic Astragalus (Astragalus balearicus), Rubia angustifolia ssp. Cespitosa, Dracunculus muscivorum, Balearic hypericon (Hypericum balearicum) etc.

A full botanical list of flora present can be found here. (In Spanish)


This is an important stopover point on the migratory route of more than 150 species of birds both in the spring and in the autumn. Audouin’s gull (Larus audouini) and Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) are also present.

A full list of species can be found here. (In Spanish)

The seabed also represents a very important part of the Park, with more than 200 species of fish and numerous endemic invertebrates.

What to visit on the islands?

The following self-guided itineraries are possible:

  • The castle. This is the most frequented by visitors who come to Cabrera. From the top, on clear days, you can see the entire mountain range of Tramuntana from sa Dragonera to Tomir and the mountains
    from Artà on the neighboring island of Mallorca.
  • The fons marí in the port of Cabrera. This excursion can be done with or without a guide (summer only) but you need to be able to swim and use a snorkel. Find out more in the information centre in the port of Cabra
  • The museum, botanic garden and the monument to the French. Its advisable to visit the information office in Cabra first as the opening times of each area vary quite a lot depending on the time of year.
  • Archaeological trail. In sa Platgeta there is a general panel explaining the history of the area and continuing along the route each place has its own explanatory panel. The archaeological area has three main points of interest, the Byzantine necropolis, deposits of salted fish and the structures of the French soldiers’ camp (Pla de ses Figueres).

You can also take a series of guided tours. For these itineraries you should request information at the information office on the island of Cabrera. (The lighthouse of l’Enciola, Na Picamosques and the Serra des Canal de ses Figueres).

Information/Visitors Centers

Ses Salines visitor center

The Cabrera National Park interpretation center is located in Colònia de Sant Jordi. here you can get the necessary documentation for your visit to the national park and learn about the history of Cabrera.

Colònia de Sant Jordi has a marina from where daily excursions are organized to visit the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Cabrera Archipelago.

  • Guided excursions around Cabrera.
  • Underwater interpretation activity (limited places).
  • Marine itinerary (limited places).
  • Itinerary in canoe (limited places).


Address: C / Gabriel Roca s / n, corner of Plaza Es Dolç, 07638 Colónia de Sant Jordi – Illes Balears (Mallorca)
Tel. 971 656 282

Remember! If you are travelling here in your own boat you will need to get the relevent permits beforehand. Find out what you need with the port authorities. and the administration office for reservations

Information in the Port of Cabrera
Tel. 630 982 363

Tel. Reservations and permits 971 177 641
Hours: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Monday to Friday

Online reservations for private boats


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