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Beaudouin's Snake Eagle
Circaetus beaudouini

Status: Vulnerable

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Beaudouin's Harrier-eagle, Beaudouin's Snake-eagle.

Circaetus beaudouini
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Distribution: Afrotropical. Southern MAURITANIA and SENEGAMBIA east to southwestern SUDAN, northern UGANDA, and northwestern KENYA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Considered to be a race of C. gallicus by Brown and Amadon (1968), Stresemann and Amadon (1979), Amadon and Bull (1988), and Sibley and Monroe (1990), but treated as a separate species by White (1970) and by most recent authors (Clark 1999). Forms a superspecies with C. gallicus and C. pectoralis. According to the molecular study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), which was based on the molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear entron, the snake eagles of the genus Circaetus form a monophyletic group that is sister to the Old World vulture group, Aegypiinae, as was found earlier by Wink (1995). This genus is also related to the Congo Serpent Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis), but not to the Madagascar Serpent Eagle (Eutriorchis astur). Brown (1955) mentioned a mixed pair of C. pectoralis and C. beaudouini nesting near Kisumu in western Kenya.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). 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 wet season (Snow 1978).

Habitat and Habits: Inhabits woodland, wooded savanna, and open country with trees, often near water; occurs in thornbush after rains, but is absent from very arid areas (Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001). Usually occurs from sea level to about 1,500 m, but is occasionally found as high as 2,000 m. It is usually a solitary species.

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on snakes and other small vertebrates, including mammals and lizards. It usually hunts from a perch, but also forages by quarterng or by hovering.

Breeding: Builds a small stick nest placed in the top of a tree. The clutch size is 1 egg. The incubation and nestling periods are apparently unrecorded. more....

Conservation: Widespread, but apparently not very common within its relatively restricted range. Poorly studied. Rondeau and Thiollay (2004) and Thiollay (2006) conducted 7,000 km of road transect surveys of raptor species in 2003-2004 in the Sudano-Sahelian savannas of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, replicating surveys conducted in the same area in 1969-1973 by Thiollay (1977). Numbers of this species had declined drastically in unprotected areas. It is categorized as Vulnerable by BirdLife International, based in large part on the catatrophic losses in West Africa, but also on apparent declines elsewhere in its range. It suffers from habitat loss, resulting from agricultural intensification, overgrazing, woodcutting, and urbanization, and it may also be affected by pesticides, especially in cotton-growing areas, and by hunting (G. Rondeau).

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) tentatively estimated the global population size at the start of the breeding season at 1,000 to 10,000 individuals, but noted that it is unlikely to exceed four figures, based on the extent of the known distribution. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the total population of mature individuals at 2,500 to 9,999, but noted that the supporting data are poor.

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Clark, W.S. 1999. Plumage differences and taxonomic status of three
  similar Circaetus snake-eagles. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club
Clark, W.S.. 2000. Field identification of Beaudouin's Snake Eagle
  Circaetus (gallicus) beaudouini. Bulletin of the African Bird Club
Clark, W.S., and R.A.G. Davies. 2000. Taxonomic problems in African
  diurnal raptors. Pp. 121-133 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.),
  Raptors at risk. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock
  House, Blaine, WA.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world.
  Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Beaudouin's Snake-eagle. P. 131 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 1. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Snow, D.W. 1978. An atlas of speciation in African non-passerine birds.
  Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

Last modified: 6/1/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Beaudouin's Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 4 Jun. 2020

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