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8 Fascinating Facts About the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle

Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle: The Fascinating Raptor of the African SkiesThe African continent is home to an exceptional wealth of bird species that inhabit various habitats, from the desert to the lush forest, and from the savannah to the wetlands. Among these fascinating birds is the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle, a raptor of the family Accipitridae, known for its remarkable hunting abilities and striking appearance.

In this article, we will explore the identification, behavior, and habitat of this magnificent bird, as well as its molts and plumages. Identification:

Field Identification:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a large bird of prey with a wingspan of about 1.4 meters and a weight of 1.5 to 2 kg.

Its body is stocky, and it has short, broad wings, ideal for navigating through the thick vegetation in search of prey. The adult bird has a distinctive appearance, with a black head, neck, and chest, contrasting with its white belly and legs.

The wings are dark brown, with a noticeable patch of white on the inner wing and white primary feathers visible in flight. The tail is black with white stripes.

The eyes are yellow, and the beak is hooked, typical of a bird of prey. Similar Species:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle must not be confused with other similar species, such as the Short-toed Snake-Eagle, which has a smaller size and a light-brown body with no black markings on the chest and head.

The Black-chested Snake-Eagle is larger, with a black chest, but it has a white head and a grey-brown body. Plumages:


Like most bird species, the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle undergoes several molts throughout its life.

The juvenile eagle has brown plumage on the back and wings, with a white belly and white stripes on the tail. The head and neck are light brown.

The adult plumage starts replacing the juvenile plumage from three years onwards, and by the seventh year, it has completed its full adult plumage. Behavior and Habitat:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle feeds primarily on reptiles, especially snakes.

Its hunting technique consists of perching on a high vantage point, such as a tall tree or a rock, from where it can spot prey from a distance. Once it has spotted prey, the eagle swoops down in a powerful dive, hitting its target with its sharp talons.

It then carries its prey to a secluded location to eat. The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is endemic to Africa, where it inhabits savannah and woodland areas.

It is also found in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the Sahel. Conclusion:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a fascinating bird of prey that has adapted to life in Africa’s diverse habitats.

Its distinctive appearance and powerful hunting abilities make it a bird that is worth observing and learning about. Through this article, we have explored the identification, behavior, and habitat of this magnificent bird, as well as its molts and plumages.

As with other members of the avian world, the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle reminds us of the remarkable biodiversity of our planet, for which we should all feel a sense of stewardship. Systematics History:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle was first described by Eduard von Homeyer, a German ornithologist, in 1863.

Its scientific name, Circaetus beaudouini, was given in honor of Lieutenant Beaudouin, a French explorer who collected the first specimen of this bird in Senegal. Over time, scientists have studied the classification and phylogeny of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle and related species, leading to some changes in its systematics.

Geographic Variation:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle exhibits some variations in appearance and behavior across its range. These variations are known as geographic variations and occur due to differences in ecological conditions, such as food availability, temperature, and altitude.


Based on these geographic variations, scientists have recognized four subspecies of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle:

1. C.

b. beaudouini: This subspecies is found in Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

It has a larger size than other subspecies, and the black markings on its body are more extensive.


C. b.

granti: This subspecies is found in Chad, Sudan, and Ethiopia. It has a smaller size than other subspecies, and the white markings on the body are more extensive.

3. C.

b. spilogaster: This subspecies is found in Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

It has a shorter wingspan and a smaller body than other subspecies. 4.

C. b.

mindanaoensis: This subspecies is found only in the Philippines, where it is endangered. It has a darker overall coloration, with a blackish forehead and crown.

Related Species:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle belongs to the genus Circaetus, which is made up of nine species of snake-eagles. These birds share physical characteristics, such as a broad, rounded wing shape, short tail, and heavily feathered legs.

Some of the related species of Circaetus include the Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and the Black-chested Snake-Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis). Historical Changes to Distribution:

The distribution of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle has changed over time due to natural and anthropogenic factors.

The bird has experienced a decline in numbers in some areas due to habitat loss, hunting, and poisoning of prey species. Some of the specific changes to its distribution include the following:


Extinction in certain areas: The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle has become extinct in some areas, such as Guinea, due to habitat destruction caused by deforestation and agricultural activities. 2.

Colonization of new areas: The bird has also colonized new areas, such as the United Arab Emirates, where it was first observed in 1994. The reason for its arrival in this area is unclear, but it is likely due to its adaptation to open habitats like the desert.

3. Volatility of populations: The populations of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle can be volatile in some areas due to seasonal fluctuations in prey populations and changes in habitat quality.

For example, in the Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal, the population of the bird fluctuated between 17 and 44 individuals between 1992 and 2001. 4.

Changes in migratory behavior: The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is non-migratory in some areas but migratory in others. The reasons for its migratory behavior are not well understood, but it is likely due to changes in food availability and breeding conditions.

In South Africa, the bird is considered a partial migrant, with some individuals migrating to neighboring countries during the non-breeding season. Conclusion:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a fascinating bird species with a rich systematics history, exhibiting geographic variations and adaptations to different habitats.

Its populations have undergone changes over time due to natural and anthropogenic factors, which highlight the importance of conservation efforts to protect the species and its habitat. Understanding the systematics and distribution of this bird can contribute to our knowledge of biodiversity and inform conservation strategies to minimize its decline.


The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is found in a variety of habitats across its range, including savannas, open woodlands, and scrublands. It is also found in arid and semi-arid regions and mountains up to an altitude of 2,200 meters.

The bird prefers habitats with a high density of prey species, particularly snakes, as they constitute most of its diet. In West Africa, the species is found in wooded savannas, gallery forests, and open habitats such as the Sahel.

In East Africa, the bird is commonly found in woodland savannas and dense bushlands. The species can also be found in some parts of North Africa, such as the Atlas Mountains.


Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagles are generally sedentary birds and do not undertake long-distance movements like some other raptor species. Their movements are generally related to their foraging behavior and searching for prey.

However, the species does engage in some movements, particularly in response to seasonal changes and changes in food availability. During the dry season, the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle may travel to areas with patches of standing water to drink and bathe.

In areas where the species is located near a major river or lake, movements may also occur in response to fish migrations. The bird will move to follow the schools of fish and feed on them.


While most populations of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle are sedentary, there is evidence of some migratory movements in some individuals. In East Africa, some populations are known to undertake altitudinal migration, moving to higher elevations during the hot dry season when prey species are scarce, then descending to lower elevations during the wet season when prey availability is higher.

In South Africa, some populations of the species are partial migrants, with some individuals undertaking a seasonal migration to neighboring countries. These movements are thought to be related to changes in food availability, particularly the availability of reptiles, which is the primary food source of the species.

It is important to note that the migratory behavior of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is not well understood, and further research is needed to fully explore its movements and migration patterns. Threats to Habitat and Movement:

Habitat loss is the most significant threat to the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle, with deforestation, land-use changes, and climate change posing significant threats to the species’ habitat and movement patterns.

These threats not only affect the species’ foraging and breeding activities, but also reduce their geographic range and population numbers. The poisoning of prey species, such as snakes, is also a significant threat to the survival of the species.

The use of pesticides, rodenticides, and other chemicals can have a severe impact on the populations of prey species, and when the majority of the diet of a species is impacted, it can have a drastic effect on their survival. In areas where the species is hunted, either for sport or traditional medicinal purposes, it can also exacerbate population declines.

Conservation efforts are crucial in protecting the habitat and movement patterns of the species, particularly in areas where habitat loss and persecution have a significant impact on populations. Conclusion:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a fascinating bird species that exhibits a variety of movements and adaptations to its habitat.

Habitat loss and degradation pose significant threats to the survival of this species, particularly as it relies on specific types of habitat for food and shelter. Understanding the movements and migration patterns of this species is crucial to conserving its populations and protecting its habitat.

Efforts to reduce habitat loss and degradation and implement conservation measures, such as education and awareness-raising aimed at reducing hunting, poisoning and habitat destruction, are vital to ensure the future of the species. Diet and Foraging:

Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a raptor that feeds mainly on reptiles, primarily snakes.

The bird is known for its highly specialized hunting technique that involves perching on a high vantage point and scanning for prey with its sharp eyes. Once it has spotted its target, it swoops down in a swift dive, grabbing the snake with its sharp talons.

The eagle then carries its prey to a secluded location to consume it. Feeding:

The feeding behaviour of Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is highly variable and depends on prey availability, season, and habitat.

The bird’s diet is not limited to snakes, as it has been documented to prey on other reptiles, such as lizards, frogs, and chameleons. It is also known to feed on small mammals, such as rodents and shrews, and occasionally small birds and insects.

Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is typically a solitary hunter, but has been recorded to form feeding aggregations, particularly in areas where prey is abundant. The bird has been observed to hunt prey from the treetops or while it flies through the forest canopy.


The diet of Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle varies by geographic region and is dependent on the availability of prey species in that area. In Mauritania and Senegal, this bird is known to feed mainly on snakes like the saw-scaled viper (Echis pyramidalis), while in Sudan, the prey species is predominantly represented by sand boas (Eryx colubrinus).

In Kenya and Tanzania, the bird feeds on a wide range of prey, including several species of snakes, lizards, and mammals. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is an endothermic bird with a highly efficient metabolism that enables it to maintain high body temperatures, even when the ambient temperature is low.

The bird can regulate its body temperature by increasing or decreasing its metabolic rate, depending on environmental conditions. It has highly insulating feathers that help retain heat, reducing the rate of heat loss.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior:

Despite being known for its impressive hunting skills, Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is not particularly vocal. The species is known to produce only a limited number of vocalizations, and these sounds are not as varied or complex as those of other raptor species.


The most common vocalization of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a piercing, far-carrying whistle that can be heard over long distances. This high-pitched sound is produced mainly during the mating season and is believed to be used in territory defense or to attract mates.

The bird is also known to produce alarm calls when it feels threatened or when predators are in the vicinity. The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a solitary bird that relies more on its impressive hunting skills than vocalizations to communicate with other members of its species.

Thus, it has evolved to have a limited and straightforward vocal repertoire compared to other raptor species. Conclusion:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a highly specialized bird that relies mainly on reptiles, particularly snakes, as its primary food source.

Its feeding behavior is highly variable and dependent on prey availability, habitat, season, and region. The bird’s vocal repertoire is limited and mainly used during the mating season for territory defense or to attract mates.

Its limited vocalization ability serves to underline its specialization as a bird of prey that relies mainly on its impressive hunting skills to survive. Behavior:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a bird of prey with a unique set of behaviors that enable it to thrive in a challenging environment.

Some of the behaviors of the bird include its locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior. Locomotion:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a powerful flier with broad wings, short tails, and heavily feathered legs that enable it to navigate through dense vegetation.

The bird relies on its keen eyesight to locate prey from a distance, then uses its powerful wings to fly in a swift dive to seize its prey. The bird is also capable of flying short distances through the forest canopy, using its wings and tail to maneuver through the trees.


The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle is a fastidious bird that spends a considerable amount of time maintaining its feathers. The bird uses its beak to preen its feathers, removing dirt, dust, and parasites.

Beak-cleaning is another important behavior in which the bird rubs its beak against a rough surface to sharpen and clean it. Agonistic Behavior:

Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle exhibits agonistic or aggressive behaviors to defend its territory and resources from other birds and predators.

The bird engages in territorial displays that consist of the bird flying over its territory, calling loudly, and perching on a high vantage point. The bird’s aggression is expressed through various displays, including raised hackles on the neck, fluffed feathers, and rapid movements, all of which are designed to intimidate potential threats.

Sexual Behavior:

The Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle engages in elaborate breeding rituals that are vital to successful reproduction. The male bird initiates courtship by flying over the female’s territory, calling loudly and offering prey to the female as a sign of its commitment.

The female then initiates the mating process by signaling its readiness through various displays, including raising its tail and fluffing its feathers. Breeding:

The breeding season of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle varies by geographic region and is influenced by seasonal changes in prey availability.

The bird’s breeding cycle typically lasts between two and three months and involves several stages, including courtship, mating, and egg-laying. The female lays a clutch of one to two eggs in a nest built high in a tree or on a rocky ledge.

The nesting sites of the Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle are carefully constructed and lined with leaves, grass, and other materials for insulation and comfort. The eggs are incubated by both parents for a period of about 40 days.

After hatching, the chicks are cared for by both parents, who provide food and protection

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