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Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Circaetinae
Genus: Circaetus
Vieillot, 1816

Circaetus, the snake eagles, is a genus of medium-sized eagles in the bird of prey family Accipitridae. The genus name is from the Ancient Greek kirkos, a type of hawk, and aetos, "eagle".[1]

These 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.

Species in taxonomic order[edit]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Short-toed Snake Eagle perched.jpg Circaetus gallicus Short-toed snake eagle the Mediterranean basin, into Russia and the Middle East, and parts of Asia
Black-chested snake-eagle (Circaetus pectoralis).jpg 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
Flickr - Rainbirder - Beaudouin's Snake Eagle (Circaetus beaudouini).jpg 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.
Brown snake eagle, Kruger National Park (38184851511).jpg Circaetus cinereus Brown snake eagle West, East and southern Africa
Circaetus fasciolatus, Chiboma, Sofala, Birding Weto, a.jpg Circaetus fasciolatus Southern banded snake eagle or fasciated snake eagle eastern Sub-Saharan Africa.
Western banded snake eagle (Circaetus cinerascens).jpg 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
Congo Serpent Eagle from Kakum Canopy Walkway - Ghana 14 S4E1475 (16013044717).jpg Circaetus spectabilis Congo serpent eagle southern Sierra Leone and Guinea, Liberia, and southern Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana

Fossil record[edit]

Circaetus rhodopensis (late Miocene of Bulgaria)[2]

Circaetus haemusensis (early Pleistocene of Bulgaria)[3]


  1. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. ^ Boev, Z. 2012. Circaetus rhodopensis sp. n. (Aves, Accipitriformes) from the Late Miocene of Hadzhidimovo (SW Bulgaria). - Acta zoologica bulgarica, 64 (1): 5-12.
  3. ^ 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.