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Short-toed Snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Short-toed Snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

spanwidth min.: 162 cm

spanwidth max.: 178 cm

size min.: 62 cm

size max.: 69 cm


incubation min.: 45 days

incubation max.: 47 days

fledging min.: 70 days

fledging max.: 75 days

broods 1

eggs min.: 1

eggs max.: 1



Physical characteristics


Distinctly larger than buzzards Buteo. Medium-sized, broad-faced, usually dark-hooded, grey-brown snake-eagle, with head and thick neck protruding in all attitudes. Underparts strikingly white, variably speckled and barred darker, markings usually forming band across chest. Black tips to primary coverts and primaries and 2-3 tail bands fairly prominent even in palest birds.




Prefers open cultivated plains, stony deciduous scrubs and foothills and semi-desert areas throughout the country.


Other details


This species is breeding in a large part of southern and Eastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It is wintering mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population of the European Union amounts to 3000-4500 breeding pairs, and seems to be fairly stable. It has undergone a strong decrease and contraction during last century, and the species has disappeared from Germany and Denmark. The main reasons for this decline are intensification of agriculture and disappearance of extensive livestock economy.




Short-toed Eagle feeds on snakes (poisonous and non-poisonous), Lizards (Varanus spp.), some species of frogs, mammals (rabbits, hares, and rats), sick and disabled birds and large insects.




This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1-10,000,000 km2. Its breeding range extends from north-west Africa and south-west Europe north to the gulf of Finland and east to Central Asia; disjunct breeding populations are also found in the Indian subcontinent and the Lesser Sundas. Western populations winter in the Sahel; others are year-round residents. It utilizes a wide range of habitats from open woodland and even fairly dense forest to semi-desert, mainly within warm temperate and tropical zones (Thiollay 1994). It has a large global population estimated to be 10,000-100,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001) so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]




The time of arrival of Short-toed Eagles in the breeding area (mid-March to mid-April) with the activity of snakes and lizards after winter hibernation (mid-March). The brooding period (mainly June and July) preferably coincides with warm and dry weather and the peak of prey abundance, which increases the probability of eaglet survival and successful fledging. The Short-toed Eagle has a clutch size of only a single egg.

In top of low tree, mostly 3-7 meter above ground but can be as low 2 meter and as high as 25 meter Occasionally in nest of another bird species. Always well hidden from ground. Nests are often reused, though not necessarily in successive years. The nest is relatively small for the size of this bird, 50-100 cm diameter, 20-30 cm high, with deep cup. Built of small sticks, 5-10 cm long; lined with greenery.

The incubation period is 45-47 days. Both sexes are known to incubate, but female does most of the work. The fledging period 70-75 days, young may leave nest for surrounding branches at about 60 days. The age of first breeding is probably at least 3-4 years.




Migratory in Palearctic; sedentary in India, Pakistan and Lesser Sundas. Most migrants winter in tropical North Africa, from Senegambia to Ethiopia. Eastern birds winter in Indian Subcontinent, occasionally in South east Asia. Exceptional in winter in south Europe, north Africa and Middle East; more common in Arabian Peninsula. Most birds leave Europe from mid-September to mid-October, returning during March and the first half of April. Birds gather at crossing points: main route between Africa and Europe passes over Straits of Gibraltar; between Africa and Asia over Gulf of Suez.


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Taken on April 23, 2015