Madagascar Serpent Eagle (Eutriorchis astur)

Madagascar Serpent Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Eutriorchis astur | [authority] Sharpe, 1875 | [UK] Madagascar Serpent Eagle | [FR] Serpentaira de Madagascar | [DE] Schlangenhabicht | [ES] Culebrera azor | [NL] Madagascarslangearend


Monotypic species


The Madagascar Serpent Eagle, Serpentaire de Madagascar, or Culebrera Azor (Eutriorchis astur) is monotypic within the genus Eutriorchis. It is endemic to Madagascar. The Madagascar Serpent eagle Eutriorchis aster is not a real serpent eagle, as it is more related to Gypaetus and Gypohierax.

Physical charateristics

A medium-sized, secretive forest eagle. Rather dull, pale earth-brown above, with narrow, blackish barring in crown, nape, some ear-coverts, and wider black barring on the tertials, secondaries and primaries. Whitish below with wide irregular dark brown barring. Long tail, barred dark with paler margins to dark bars. Yellow eyes, stout bill but lacking tooth. Long, powerful, yellowish, heavily-scaled legs. Differs from Henst’s Goshawk Accipiter henstii by paler earth-brown upperparts combined with horizontal breast-barring, inconspicuous dark bars in upperparts (especially tertials and on head), rather long tail, rather bulging head-shape with slight nape crest, and call.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 64 cm size max.: 68 cm
incubation min.: 38 days incubation max.: 44 days
fledging min.: 58 days fledging max.: 62 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Africa : Madagascar. Eutriorchis astur is a rare inhabitant of the eastern rainforests of Madagascar. Apart from inconclusive reports of its presence in Marojejy Reserve in the 1960s and 1970s, and despite considerable search-effort within its habitat, it was not definitely recorded between 1930 and 1993


An elusive and wary denizen of lowland and mid-altitude primary rainforest, it rarely, if ever, ventures beyond the forest edge


The first nest to be found by scientists was in 1997 in an epiphytic fern 20 m above the ground. In the only studied nest the clutch size was one, incubation 40+ days, nestling period 62 days, and the young dispersed at 15 weeks of age. The species exhibits low productivity, producing one offspring every one or two years.
Only two nesting attempts have been well documented, although five nesting attempts have been records in the Makira forest. Both of the nests that were studied were made of sticks and were well hidden in epiphytic ferns within the dense canopy of primary raiforest. The clutch size was a single, unmarked white egg. Both adults incubated, with the female doing the majority (78%), and the female also attended the single nestling; both parents delivered fresh twigs with leaves to the nest. The incubation period was about 40 days at one nest, and the recorded nestling periods were 58 and 62 days. The male delivered 75% of the prey items, and the female did not begin hunting and delivering prey until the chick was 18 days old. Both parents continued delivering prey items to a chick after it fledged, but it began hunting on its own within 10 days after fledging.

Feeding habits

It is known to feed on lizards (chameleons and geckos, which make up 83% of its diet) and frogs. It flies between subcanopy perches, hunting for food on the ground, possibly also taking reptiles in the subcanopy. It is also known to glide over the canopy and use foot-thrusting to flush prey in epiphytes and under leaf litter on the ground.

Video Madagascar Serpent Eagle


copyright: Khaled Azamnoor


This species has recently been found in several new locations, extending its known range considerably. In addition, the use of playback techniques has demonstrated that the species is not as rare as previously thought. Nevertheless, the species has a very small population and for this reason it is listed as Endangered. In addition, its population is continuing to decline as a result of the increasing destruction and fragmentation of its habitat through deforestation.
Its forest habitat is being reduced by extensive clearance for subsistence slash-and-burn agriculture and also commercial logging activities. Other threats include uncontrolled bush fires and poor mining practices. The species dependence on pristine lowland forest makes it particularly susceptible to disturbance. Human persecution may also be a problem in some areas. Much of the eastern coastal plain has either already been cleared or is covered by highly degraded forest; remaining habitat is under pressure from the increasing human population. If present trends continue, the remaining forest, especially at the lower altitudes preferred by this species, will disappear within decades.
Madagascar Serpent Eagle status Endangered



Distribution map

Madagascar Serpent Eagle distribution range map

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