Southern Banded Snake Eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus)

Southern Banded Snake Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Circaetus fasciolatus | [authority] Kaup, 1850 | [UK] Southern Banded Snake Eagle | [FR] Circaete barre | [DE] Graubrust-Schlangenadler | [ES] Culebrera barreada | [NL] Grijze Slangearend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Circaetus fasciolatus AF s, se


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

This small and relatively inconspicuous eagle could easily go unspotted in the wild, save for its noisy, high-pitched call, ko-ko-ko-kaw, repeatedly made while perching and in flight. The southern banded snake-eagle has a large, rounded head, with the feathers flaring out from the sides down to the neck giving a cowled appearance. The plumage is grey-brown on the head and blackish-brown on the upperparts, while the breast is brown, becoming white with grey-brown bars on the underparts and thighs. The wings are mainly blackish-brown above and whitish below, and the white-tipped tail is marked on the underside with three distinct dark bands. This species has large cream or pale yellow eyes, yellow feet and a sharply pointed bill which is black at the tip and yellow towards the base. The juvenile has mainly dark upperparts and pale underparts, with dark streaks on the face, throat and upper breast.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 57 cm size max.: 63 cm
incubation min.: 49 days incubation max.: 51 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Africa : South, Southeast. Circaetus fasciolatus occurs from southern Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique to north-eastern South Africa, extending up the Save River (Mozambique) to south-eastern Zimbabwe. It is generally found within 20 km of the coast, except along major rivers, in the lower Tana River forests in Kenya, the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, and in Zimbabwe.


It is a secretive raptor confined mainly to dense coastal and riverine forest, also ranging into adjacent marshes and floodplains. It generally preferring coastal lowland evergreen forest, sand forest, thickets and plantations.


Monogamous and territorial, performing an aerial display in which it makes an undulating flight while calling loudly, sometimes ending in a steep dive.
The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of an open platform of thin sticks with a smaller inner cup, lined with fresh green sprigs; the whole structure is roughly 50-70 cm wide yet the cup is usually about 17 cm wide. It is typically placed in the main fork of a tree. Egg-laying season is from August-October. It probably lays a single egg, which is mainly incubated by the female for about 49-51 days, as the male may take over for short stints early in the incubation period. The chicks are fed by both parents on a diet of shredded snake flesh, although at first the male does most of the hunting while the female cares for the nestling.

Feeding habits

It mainly eats snakes, doing most of its foraging from a perch, scanning the surrounding vegetation for prey. If it catches a large snake it rips it into bite-size pieces before feeding, but if it small enough it just swallows it whole head-first. The following food are also taken lizards, termites, rodents, amphibia, arthropods and birds.


This species is classified as Near Threatened, owing to its small range and population. There is no evidence that either its range or population is in decline. However, evidence of such declines may qualify the species for uplisting to a higher threat category.
Coastal forest is threatened with degradation and fragmentation (particularly along rivers) as a result of the extraction of wood for use as timber, charcoal, poles and firewood. In Mozambique, it probably no longer occurs on the coast between the Limpopo and Save rivers due to human population pressure and deforestation, while the population south of the Save river is probably fewer than 50 birds.
Southern Banded Snake Eagle status Near Threatened


The species is sedentary and resident throughout much of its range, except for some movement north into Kenya during the dry season (May-September).

Distribution map

Southern Banded Snake Eagle distribution range map

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