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Congo Serpent Eagle
Dryotriorchis spectabilis

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: African Serpent-eagle, Congo Serpent-eagle, West African Serpent Eagle.

Dryotriorchis spectabilis
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical. SIERRA LEONE and CAMEROON east to western UGANDA and ZAIRE; northern ANGOLA. more....

Subspecies: 2 races. D. s. batesi: Southern CAMEROON south to GABON and throughout the Congo Basin east to south-central ZAIRE and western UGANDA; northern ANGOLA; D. s. spectabilis: SIERRA LEONE east to southern NIGERIA and northwestern CAMEROON.

Taxonomy: Formerly thought to be most closely related to the Asian genus Spilornis and the Madagascar Serpent-eagle, Eutriorchis astur, but the study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), which was based on the molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, showed that this species falls within a clade of snake eagle species in the genus Circaetus.

Movements: Probably non-migratory.

Habitat and Habits: Secretive and easily overlooked in lowland and medium-altitude primary rainforests. Spends most of its time perched at mid-levels of forests and forest edges. Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett (2008) found it in closed forest, forest clearings, and at forest edges in Sierra Leone. The large head and eyes may be adaptations to hunting in poor light below the canopy (Snow 1978). Detected mainly by its call, "a far-carrying peacock-like miaowing" (Gatter 1997). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on reptiles, amphibians, and possibly small mammals, which it captures from tree trunks, foliage, or on the ground by stooping on them from a perch (Kemp and Kemp 1998). Often seen flying above the canopy or high across clearings, but hunts mainly from a perch inside the forest or along roads and clearings (Borrow and Demey 2001). Gatter (1997) mentioned the apparent habit of this species of hunting from perches on branches overhanging rivers, perhaps searching for watersnakes. more....

Breeding: The nest and eggs are apparently undescribed. more....

Conservation: Widespread, but little studied. Thiollay (1985) regarded this as one of the most threatened species in Côte d'Ivoire, due to intense forest exploitation. More recently, he listed its major threats as habitat loss and fragmentation, because it is intolerant of secondary habitats which now predominate in much of its range in West Africa (Thiollay 2000). He felt that it is more common in the many larger tracts of forest in Central Africa. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International.

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) suggested that the population of this species could be in five figures, based on the rather large size of its range and existing forest habitat. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the population at 10,000 mature individuals, while noting that the supporting data for any estimate are poor.

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A.
2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Congo Serpent-eagle. P. 134 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.
Negro, J.J. 2008. Two aberrant serpent-eagles may be visual mimics of
  bird-eating raptors. Ibis 150:307-314.
Snow, D.W. 1978. An atlas of speciation in African non-passerine birds.
  Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

Last modified: 6/2/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Congo Serpent Eagle Dryotriorchis spectabilis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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