Beaudouins Snake Eagle (Circaetus beaudouini)

Beaudouins Snake Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Circaetus beaudouini | [authority] Verreaux and Des Murs, 1862 | [UK] Beaudouins Snake Eagle | [FR] Circaete de beaudouin | [DE] Beaudoin’s-Schlangenadler | [ES] Culebrera sudanesa | [NL] Beaudouins Slangenarend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Circaetus beaudouini AF c, w


Members of the genus Circaetus are the snake eagles. They form a monophyletic group Circatinae that is sister to the Old World vulture group, Aegypiinae. These are mainly birds which specialise in feeding on snakes and other reptiles, which is the reason most are named as “snake-eagles” or “serpent-eagles”. They are restricted to warmer parts of the Old World. They have hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs and powerful talons. They also have extremely keen eyesight to enable them to spot potential prey from a distance.

Physical charateristics

Large snake-eagle. Grey-brown above with a barred white belly. Three to four tail bands. Plain grey legs and cere. Sexes similar. Juveniles are all dark brown above and below with some white streaking on the head, and barring on the flanks. Very similar to Short-toed Snake-eagle which occurs within the range in winter. That species is slightly larger with proportionately longer wings. Adult Beadouin’s has plain underwing coverts whereas Short-toed typically has dark barring

wingspan min.: 155 cm wingspan max.: 170 cm
size min.: 47 cm size max.: 63 cm
incubation min.: 43 days incubation max.: 47 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 75 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Africa : Central, West. Circaetus beaudouini occupies a relatively narrow band of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal, Gambia and south Mauritania in the west to southern Sudan in the east and south to Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic. Recorded from Uganda, but its status is uncertain in Kenya.


It inhabits dry savannah but favours more open areas of grassland and even cultivated areas. It is a seasonal migrant moving between the Sudan zone (and northern Guinea zone) in the dry season and the Sahel (and northern Sudan) zone in the rainy season. Thinly distributed and territorial. Generally solitary.


Breeding has been recorded from November to March in West Africa, but may occur over a more extended period further east. Beaudouin?s snake-eagle builds a small stick nest in a tree, and lays a single egg. The incubation period is thought likely to last around 45 days, the young eagle leaving the nest at around 70 days, but detailed information on these periods is lacking.

Feeding habits

Relatively little is kown about the biology of Beaudouin?s snake-eagle. Usually seen alone or in pairs, it feeds mainly, as the name suggests, on snakes, although some lizards, small mammals, birds and occasional insects may also be taken.

Video Beaudouins Snake Eagle


copyright: J. del Hoyo


This species occupies a large range, within which it occurs at low density and faces a number of threats. It qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its small population which has declined rapidly.
West African raptors have declined owing to a number of threats associated with a three-fold increase in the human population within the region over the past 30 years. Habitat destruction has resulted from agricultural intensification, overgrazing, woodcutting2 and major developments, such as urbanisation. Woodcutting for fuelwood, timber and charcoal has caused conversion of woodland into shrubland. Agricultural intensification has led to aerial and ground spraying of insecticides to control insect outbreaks. More specifically, the species is threatened by the spread of cotton fields and the associated use of organochlorine insecticides. Insect swarms were previously an important source of food for raptors directly, or their prey. Livestock are virtually ubiquitous, especially in the Sahel where overgrazing is a major cause of desertification. In addition, hunting has exacerbated the decline.
Beaudouins Snake Eagle status Vulnerable


Partial migrant. This species engages in some movements in response to regional rainfall patterns. In West Africa, it moves south (in the Sudan and northern Guinea zones) in the dry season and north to the Sahel and northern Sudan in the rainy season.

Distribution map

Beaudouins Snake Eagle distribution range map

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