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Short-toed snake-eagle

Circaetus gallicus
Photo by Denis Haltebourg (Nunda Foto)

Common name:
short-toed snake-eagle (en); águia-cobreira (pt); circaète Jean-le-Blanc (fr); águila culebrera (es)schlangenadler (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species is found  breeding from the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco in the west, through southern and central Europe as far north as the Baltic and through Turkey and southern Russia, into the Caucasus and the Middle East and as far east as southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and northern Afghanistan. They migrate south to winter in sub-Saharan Africa across the Sahel belt and in the Indian sub-continent.

These birds are 62-70 cm long and have a wingspan of 170-190 cm. They weigh 1,2-2,3 kg.

The short-toed snake-eagle uses a wide range of habitats, usually preferring mixed areas which include forested areas for nesting and open areas rich with reptiles. They are found in temperate forests, dry savannas, grasslands, dry scrublands and even deserts. This birds occur from sea level up to an altitude of 2.300 m.

They mainly feed on snakes of up to 1,5 m in length, but also other reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and rarely other birds and invertebrates.

Short-toed snake-eagles breed in April-October. The nest is relatively small for such a large bird, being constructed from sticks and twigs and lined with green leaves or grass. It is usually placed in a tree, or more rarely on a cliff ledge. There the female lays a single white egg, which she mostly incubates alone for 45-47 days. The chick is fed by both parents and fledges 60-80 days after hatching. It becomes independent soon after fledging.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population size estimated at 51.400-156.000 individuals. In the past, this population suffered declines caused by habitat loss and shooting. At present, although there is still some illegal shooting in wintering and migration areas, like Malta, the population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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