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Short-toed Snake Eagle
Circaetus gallicus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Circaetus ferox, European Snake-eagle, European Snake Eagle, Short-toed Serpent-eagle, Short-toed Snake-eagle.

Circaetus gallicus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa north to the Gulf of Finland and east to Lake Balkash and IRAN, the Indian subcontinent, MONGOLIA, and CHINA (Xinjiang); LESSER SUNDAS (from Lombok to Timor); western populations winter in the Sahel zone, and eastern populations winter south to Indian, Southeast Asia, and sparsely to SUMATRA, JAVA, and BALI. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: Wink (1995) found that this species is related to the Aegypius clade of Old World vultures, where it had been placed earlier on the basis of morphological characters by Jollie (1976, 1977) and Mundy et al. (1992). Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000) also found that this species and the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) form a monophyletic clade. Even though they differ greatly in plumage patterns, they show similarities in food, feeding and breeding. Sibley and Monroe (1990) also proposed a relationship between these species. The Short-toed Eagle forms a superspecies with C. beaudouini and C. pectoralis, and they have been treated as subspecies of C. gallicus (Clark 1999). Clark (2004 and earlier) suggested using the vernacular name "Snake Eagle" to coincide with the common names of its congeners, and this suggestion is gradually being adopted by authorities in the European breeding range of the species. more....

Movements: Complete long distance migrant (Bildstein 2006), including breeding populations in northern Africa and also undergoes movements in response to rainfall patterns on its winter range. In general, birds in the western portion of the breeding range move south to humid savanna regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and more eastern breeding populations winter on the Indian subcontinent (Adamian and Klem 1999). more....

Habitat and Habits: Nests in woodland, but hunts over open terrain, and is rarely found in dense forest. In the continental middle latitudes, this species prefers damp lowland forests mixed with grassy fields and wetlands, and in the southern part of the breeding range, it prefers sunny, arid rocky or sandy areas with scattered open woodlands, especially cliff formations interspersed with areas cleared for cultivation (Adamian and Klem 1999). Spends much time on the wing, soaring, kiting, or hovering, often at a great height. Perches in the tops of tall trees and on large exposed bare limbs (Coates and Bishop 1997). Occurs singly, or in pairs. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on snakes, lizards, and frogs, but also takes small mammals, which it captures after a long stoop from an exposed perch or from flight. Often hovers over open areas before dropping to the ground to capture prey. Follows grassland fires (Coates and Bishop 1997). more....

Breeding: Builds a stick nest placed a few meters above the ground in a tree, or less commonly on a cliff. Sometimes nests of other species (e.g. Corvus ruficollis in Morocco) are used. Clutch size is 1 unmarked white egg, and the incubation period is 47 days (Vlachos and Papageorgiou 1994). more....

Conservation: Widespread and generally common throughout its very large range. Although the northern European population suffered major declines in the late 19th and early 20th century, as a result of shooting and habitat loss, the overall numbers at the species level are considered to be stable. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population, based on the start of the breeding season, at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals, but thought that a figure of 12,000 to 26,000 pairs (= 52,000 individuals plus immatures and other non-breeding birds) might be realistic. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature individuals at 51,000 to 156,000, although noting that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. The European population was estimated at 6,200 to 14,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council 2000) and later at 8,400 to 13,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
Bakaloudis, D.E., C.G. Vlachos, and G.J. Holloway. 1998. Habitat use by
  Short-toed Eagles Circaetus gallicus and their reptilian prey
  during the breeding season in Dadia Forest (north-eastern Greece). Journal
  of Applied Ecology 35:821-828.
Bakaloudis, D.E., C.G. Vlachos, and G.J. Holloway. 2000. Nest features and
  nest-tree characteristics of Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus
) in the Dadia-Lefmimi-Soufli Forest, northeastern Greece.
  Journal of Raptor Research 34:293-298.
Bakaloudis, D.E., C. Vlachos, N. Papageorgiou, and G.J. Holloway. 2001.
  Nest-site habitat selected by Short-toed Eagles Circaetus
in Dadia Forest (northeastern Greece). Ibis 143:391-401.
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Cattaneo, G. 1998. [The Short-toed Eagle, Circaetus gallicus, in the
  western Italian Alps.] British Birds 98:369-380.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Ivanovsky, V.V. 1992. [Ecology of Short-toed Eagle nesting in the
  Byelorussian Poozerje.] Pp. 69-77 in E.N. Kurochkin (ed.), Modern
  ornithology 1991. Nauka, Moscow.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Short-toed Snake-eagle. P. 131 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Petretti, F. 1988. Notes on the behaviour and ecology of the Short-toed
  Eagle in Italy. Gerfaut 78:261-286.
Vlachos, C., and N. Papageorgiou. 1994. Diet, breeding success and
  nest-site selection of the Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus
) in northeastern Greece. Journal of Raptor Research 28:39-42.

Current Research: Short-toed Eagles fitted with satellite transmitters in Israel in 2006 have been reported wintering in Sudan, and their migration route will be placed on the internet. This is the first time that birds taking the East Mediterranean route have been monitored (Sameh Darawshi in litt. to African Birding, November 2006).

Sites of Interest:
HoverOverUs-Short-toed Eagle
An excellent site with much conservation information and nice photos of this species. Includes a useful newsletter, La Plume du Circačte.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations
Short-toed Eagle photos.

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Iribarren, Juan Jesus
Kothe, Sudhanshu
Panuccio, Michele
Purev-Ochir, Gankhuyag

Last modified: 11/14/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Oct. 2021

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