Black-chested snake eagle

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Black-chested snake eagle
Circaetus pectoralis.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Circaetinae
Genus: Circaetus
Species: C. pectoralis
Binomial name
Circaetus pectoralis
( A. Smith, 1829)

The black-chested snake eagle (Circaetus pectoralis) is a large African bird of prey of the Accipitridae family. It resembles other snake-eagles and was once believed to be conspecific with the short-toed and Beaudouin's snake eagles.


Black-chested snake eagle in flight over the Serengeti, Tanzania

The main identifying character of this bird is its dark brown head and chest, to which it owes its name. In flight the dark head contrasts with the underparts and underwings, which are white apart from dark barring on the flight feathers and tail. The upperparts are dark brown, and the eye is yellow. The female is similar to, but larger than the male, and the juvenile has rufous plumage.


The call is a whistled kwo kwo kwo kweeoo.


This species can be found throughout southern Africa from Ethiopia and Sudan in the north to South Africa in the south and Angola in the southwest. Due to its wide distribution the species is not endangered.


It inhabits different habitats, providing it can find open terrain to hunt on, trees to perch and nest in, and sufficient food supply. This includes semi-arid or even desert areas. As its name indicates, this bird feeds mostly on snakes, but will also prey on lizards, small mammals and frogs. The female will lay only one egg per clutch, which is incubated for 50 days. The chick leaves the nest after 3 months.


  • Brown, Leslie and Dean Amadon (1968).Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of the World vol.1, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.
  • Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1

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