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Short-toed Snake Eagle - BirdForum Opus

Photo by kiran poonacha
Bangalore, Karnataka, India, November 2008

Alternative name: Short-toed Eagle

Circaetus gallicus


62–70 cm (24½-27½ in)

  • White underside
  • Greyish-brown upperparts
  • Chin, throat and upper breast are a pale, earthy brown
  • Tail has 3 or 4 bars
  • Owl-like rounded head
  • Bright yellow eyes
  • Light barring on under-wing.
In flight
Photo by Kevin Wade
La Janda, Cádiz, Spain, 5 March 2015


Europe, Africa and Asia.
Breeds in North-West Africa and much of Spain, patchy distribution in central and southern France, the Alps and Italy, and in scattered pockets east to the Black Sea. More widespread in Greece, the southern Balkans and the Caucasus, and from eastern Poland and the Ukraine eastwards. Widespread in Turkey with small numbers breeding in Syria, Jordan and Israel and range extends eastwards to northern China and south to southern India and the Lesser Sundas (Indonesia).

Occasional in southern Europe in winter but most move to tropical Africa and follow the major migration routes Gibraltar, the Bosphorus and Borçka in Turkey. In autumn this movement takes place in early August to mid-October with the peak in late September-early October.

The return movement is in March-May, peaking in late March. Small numbers of birds also use the Sicily-Cap Bon route. Occasionally seen north of breeding range in Continental Europe, reaching the Netherlands and records are now annual or almost so in Sweden and Finland and a very rare vagrant to Norway. There is a single British record from the Isles of Scilly when one toured the islands for a few days in October 1999.


Showing owl-like face
Photo by Alok Tewari
Bhindawas, Jhajjar, Haryana, India, February-2017

Pectoralis and beaudouini have been split from this species as Black-breasted Snake Eagle and Beaudouin's Snake Eagle.
The proposed subspecies heptneri, ferox and hypoleucos (Eastern Asia) are usually considered invalid.


Two subspecies are recognized[1].

  • C. g. gallicus - breeds northwestern Africa and southern Europe, north to Estonia, south to the Levant, and east to Kazakhstan, also locally Arabian Peninsula, northern China, and Mongolia; also resident in South Asia (Pakistan, Nepal, and India). Western populations winter in the Sahel (Senegal and southwestern Mauritania to Ethiopia and western Kenya), eastern populations winter in South Asia
  • C. g. sacerdotis - Lesser Sundas (Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, Besar, Sumba, Alor, Rote, Wetar, Timor, and Tanimbar); reported also eastern Java and Bali, where perhaps only a nonbreeding visitor


In Eurasia prefers warm and dry areas where reptile prey is most abundant. Often in hilly country with woodland or scattered trees, heathlands and maquis, desert edges and rocky terrain.

In Africa a bird of open plains and lightly wooded country.



The diet consists mostly of snakes, but will also take other reptiles and small mammals.


Nests in trees. A single egg is laid.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BF Member observations
  3. Wikipedia

Recommended Citation

External Links

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