Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle - Spilornis klossi | The Eagle Directory

Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle - Spilornis klossi

Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Spilornis
Species: S. klossi

Great Nicobar Serpent Eagles are endemic to a few islands in the Nicobar archipelago in the Bay of Bengal and are the smallest known serpent eagles. They are considered a subspecies of Spilornis cheela (Crested Serpent Eagle) by some authorities.

Physical Description:

Great Nicobar Serpent Eagles have a short, bushy crest tipped with rufous, a black crown, gray cheeks with darker gray stripes extending along the sides of the face, and a yellow-brown collar on the back and sides of neck. They are otherwise dark brown from above with white-tipped wing coverts and black primary feathers. Along the belly, flanks, and thighs they are white, and the breast is cinnamon-buff. The tail also has white tips in addition to two brown bands. Eyes are legs are yellow.

Juveniles are not well described, but are assumed to be similar to adults, with buff along the head and three pale bands on the tail. The eyes are brown-gray and the legs a dull, dirty yellow.


Length: 38-42 cm
Wingspan: 85-95 cm

Habitat and Distribution:

They live in primary forest, often within the canopy, from 0-600 meters above sea level.

They are endemic to the island of Great Nicobar, Pujo Kunji, Little Nicobar, and Menchal in the Nicobar Islands. Great Nicobar is the largest, though it is only 860 km². Adults are probably sedentary.

Diet and Hunting:

Their diet is most likely reptiles, rodents, and birds. The stomach of one Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle included lizards, rats, a small bird, and one Chalcophaps indica (Emerald Dove).


No information.


Settlement on the Nicobar islands has put pressure on natural resources and planned development projects could damage the habitat of Great Nicobar Serpent Eagles. They are currently listed as Near Threatened by BirdLife International due to a declining population.

Conservation measures proposed include surveys to determine their population size, monitoring of the population, and protecting forest.


Spilornis klossi was formerly classified as a subspecies of Spilornis cheela (Crested Serpent Eagle) but Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A.(2001) treated it as a full species. Therefore, it is tentatively categorized as a separate species from S. cheela on this website.

Other Names:

Small Serpent Eagle, South Nicobar Serpent Eagle, Southern Nicobar Serpent Eagle, Nicobarenslangenarend (Dutch), Pikkuharjakotka (Finnish), Serpentaire des Nicobar (French), Kloss-Schlangenweihe (German), Serpentario delle Nicobare (Italian), Nikobarsnokørn (Norwegian), Wezojad nikobarski (Polish), Águila Culebrera de Nicobar Mayor (Spanish).

Other Multimedia:

None available.

BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet: Spilornis klossi. Downloaded from on 10/03/2012.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2012. Species account: Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle Spilornis klossi. Downloaded from on 10 Mar. 2012
BirdLife International 2008. Spilornis klossi. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Downloaded on 10 March 2012.
Ferguson-Lees, James, and Christie, David A. Raptors of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.