Southern banded snake-eagle -- 斑短趾雕 (Circaetus fasciolatus)

Southern banded snake-eagle with prey
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Southern banded snake-eagle fact file

Southern banded snake-eagle description

GenusCircaetus (1)

This small and relatively inconspicuous eagle could easily go unspotted in the wild, save for its noisy, high-pitched call, ko-ko-ko-kaw, repeatedly made while perching and in flight (4). The southern banded snake-eagle has a large, rounded head, with the feathers flaring out from the sides down to the neck giving a cowled appearance (2) (4). The plumage is grey-brown on the head and blackish-brown on the upperparts, while the breast is brown, becoming white with grey-brown bars on the underparts and thighs. The wings are mainly blackish-brown above and whitish below (4), and the white-tipped tail is marked on the underside with three distinct dark bands (2). This species has large cream or pale yellow eyes, yellow feet and a sharply pointed bill which is black at the tip and yellow towards the base (4). The juvenile has mainly dark upperparts and pale underparts, with dark streaks on the face, throat and upper breast (2).

Circaète barré.
Length: 55 – 60 cm (2)

Southern banded snake-eagle biology

The southern banded snake-eagle is a secretive and solitary species (1), usually remaining beneath the forest canopy. When hunting, this species perches silently in trees at the edges of clearings and rivers, and when prey appears it swoops to the ground, snatching it up in its large, sharp talons. As its name suggests this species’ preferred source of food is snakes, but it will also take lizards, termites, large beetles, mice, and even chickens (4).

During the breeding season, the male southern banded snake-eagle may be seen soaring above the forest canopy, repeatedly calling in a display designed to attract a mate (4). Once breeding pairs have formed, they construct a nest from twigs lined with green leaves, in which a single egg is laid (4) (5) (6). Egg-laying occurs from July to October in the northern parts of this species’ range and from September to October in the southern parts (4).


Southern banded snake-eagle range

The southern banded snake-eagle is found along the east coast of central and southern Africa, from southern Somalia, south through Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique to north-eastern South Africa. It is also found along the Save River, running through Zimbabwe and Mozambique (5).


Southern banded snake-eagle habitat

A forest-dwelling species, the southern banded snake-eagle mainly occupies evergreen coastal forest, as well as dense inland forests surrounding rivers, lakes and swamps, with occasional movement into more open areas of woodland (4).


Southern banded snake-eagle status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Southern banded snake-eagle threats

The southern banded snake-eagle is uncommon throughout most of its range, with populations in South Africa limited to just 40 to 50 pairs. At present it is not known if this species’ overall population is in decline, but the continual degradation and fragmentation of its coastal forest habitat for use as timber, charcoal and firewood certainly presents a significant threat. Deforestation and the expansion of human populations have already potentially destroyed populations previously found along the coast of Mozambique between the Limpopo and Save Rivers (5).


Southern banded snake-eagle conservation

While there are currently no specific conservation measures in place for the southern banded snake-eagle, it does occur in a number of protected areas (5). It is one of the many threatened species found in the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is currently being developed into an outstanding birding area to attract high levels of eco-tourism. This will help to protect the area against human development and conserve its remarkable species (7). Nevertheless, in order to preserve the southern banded snake-eagle in other parts of its range, its habitat and population will need to be continually monitored, and protected areas will need to be expanded (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn more about the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park visit



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. Sinclair, I. and Hockey, P. (2007) The Larger Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  3. CITES (April, 2008)
  4. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Prey of the World. Houghton Mifflin, New York.
  5. BirdLife International (December, 2008)
  6. Cordeiro, N. and Githiru, M. (2000) Conservation evaluation for birds of Brachylaena woodland and mixed dry forest in northeast Tanzania. Bird Conservation International, 10: 47 - 65.
  7. BirdLife International (December, 2008)

Image credit

Southern banded snake-eagle with prey  
Southern banded snake-eagle with prey

© Peter Pickford / Images of Africa

Images of Africa
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