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Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Circaetinae
Genus: Circaetus
Vieillot, 1816
Type species
Falco gallicus
Gmelin, 1788

Circaetus, the snake eagles, is a genus of medium-sized eagles in the bird of prey family Accipitridae. They are mainly resident African species, but the migratory short-toed snake eagle breeds from the Mediterranean basin into Russia, the Middle East and India, and winters in sub-Saharan Africa and east to Indonesia.

Snake eagles are found in open habitats like cultivated plains arid savanna, but require trees in which to build a stick nest. The single egg is incubated mainly or entirely by the female.

Circaetus eagles have a rounded head and broad wings. They prey on reptiles, mainly snakes, but also take lizards and occasionally small mammals.

Taxonomy and species[edit]

The genus Circaetus was introduced in 1816 by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot to accommodate a single species, the short-toed snake eagle, which is therefore considered the type species.[1][2] The genus name is from the Ancient Greek kirkos, a type of hawk, and aetos, "eagle".[3] The genus contains six species.[4]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Circaetus gallicus Short-toed snake eagle the Mediterranean basin, into Russia and the Middle East, and parts of Asia
Circaetus pectoralis - sometimes included in C. gallicus Black-chested snake eagle southern Africa from Ethiopia and Sudan in the north to South Africa in the south and Angola in the southwest
Circaetus beaudouini - sometimes included in C. gallicus Beaudouin's snake eagle Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Gambia through southern Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger, northern Nigeria and Cameroon, southern Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Circaetus cinereus Brown snake eagle West, East and southern Africa
Circaetus fasciolatus Southern banded snake eagle or fasciated snake eagle eastern Sub-Saharan Africa.
Circaetus cinerascens Western banded snake eagle Africa in the northern tropics from Senegal and Gambia east through to Ethiopia and then south to southern Angola and Zimbabwe

Fossil record[edit]

Circaetus rhodopensis (late Miocene of Bulgaria)[5]

Circaetus haemusensis (early Pleistocene of Bulgaria)[6]


  1. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1816). Analyse d'une Nouvelle Ornithologie Élémentaire (in French). Paris: Deterville/self. p. 23.
  2. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 309.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (August 2022). "Hoatzin, New World vultures, Secretarybird, raptors". IOC World Bird List Version 12.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  5. ^ Boev, Z. 2012. Circaetus rhodopensis sp. n. (Aves, Accipitriformes) from the Late Miocene of Hadzhidimovo (SW Bulgaria). - Acta zoologica bulgarica, 64 (1): 5-12.
  6. ^ Boev, Z. 2015. An Early Pleistocene Snake-eagle (Circaetus haemusensis sp. n. - Aves, Accipitriformes) from Varshets (NW Bulgaria). – Acta zoologica bulgarica. 67 (1), 2015: 127-138.