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Black-chested Snake Eagle
Circaetus pectoralis

Accipitriforme Order – Accipitridae Family

Length: 63 à 68 cm
Wingspan: 178 cm
Weight: 1178 à 2260 g

Black-chested Snake-Eagle adult has black upperparts, with slight “scaled” effect, due to pale feathers’ edges.
Underparts are white, except chin, throat and chest which are black. Underwing and undertail feathers are white, with narrow black bars across secondaries and tail.
Head is black. Hooked bill is blackish with grey cere. Eyes are bright yellow. Long bare legs and feet are grey.
Both sexes are similar.

Fr: Circaète à poitrine noire
All :  Schwarzbrust-Schlangenadler
Esp :  Culebrera Pechinegra
Ital : Biancone pettonero

Photographs by Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Photograph by Callie de Wet

Photograph by Tom Merigan
Tom Meriganís Photo Galleries

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

BIRDS OF AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Princeton University Press Princeton and Oxford - ISBN: 0691118159

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)


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Juvenile has brown upperparts with pale feathers’ edges. Flight feathers are dark brown. Underparts are paler buffy-brown, underwing coverts too. Head is paler rufous-brown with crown slightly streaked with dark brown, and some grey wash over ears. Flight feathers are white below.
Subadult is almost similar to adult but sooty-brown above. Underparts are whitish, with large brown spots on upper chest, and broad rufous-brown bars on flanks and flight feathers.
They reach their sexual maturity at about 3 to 4 years.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle rarely calls. But it can utter a melodious whistle “kwo-kwo-kwo-kweeu”.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle lives from desert to open steppes, savannahs and woodlands. It avoids true desert and dense forests. We find it from sea level to 3400 metres of elevation.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle lives in eastern, central and southern Africa. It is highly nomadic in many areas, and possibly intra African migrant.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle hunts in open areas, often on the wing. It soars, kiting when windy with wings bent, but also hovering while is flapping its wings. It may pursue its prey over long distances. It usually hunts solitary.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle, as other Snake-Eagles, is snake’s predator. It spends long time flying, searching for prey, performing some hovering before to dive with head upright, wings M-shaped and prominent breast, throwing forwards its talons to catch the prey. It carries the snake in the bill, with dangling tail, very conspicuous in flight with long snakes.

Outside of breeding season, Black-chested Snake-Eagle may gather at roosts of up to 200 birds.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle soars and hovers when hunting.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle’s nest is a small stick nest concealed on the top of a low thorn tree.
Female lays only one white egg. Incubation lasts about 50 days, mainly by female. Young leave the nest about 3 months after hatching.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle feeds mainly on snakes, but it also consumes lizards, frogs, small mammals and birds.

Black-chested Snake-Eagle is uncommon to locally common, but species is not endangered, due to its wide distribution.