Madagascar Serpent Eagle - Eutriorchis astur
By J G Keulemans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Species: E. astur
Madagascar Serpent Eagles are among the world's most endangered raptors. Endemic to the island of Madagascar, they live in the forest canopy in the eastern part of the island.
Madagascar Serpent Eagles are pale brown from above with black barring along the crown and nape, with wider bars on the flight feathers. The underside is white with dark brown barring and their long, powerful legs are yellow in color. The tail is long and barred. Eyes are yellow to red-yellow and the bill is short and broad. They also have a short crest.
Juveniles are pale brown with white mottling and white tipped feathers, most obvious on the tail. They also have dark barring along the throat and chest. The eyes are gray.
The calls of Madagascar Serpent Eagles include a loud, carrying "wah wah wah wah" and a frog-like sound.
Length: 66 cm
Habitat and Distribution:
They live in primary rainforest and along forest edges up to 1,000 meters above sea level. They rarely fly above the forest canopy and are highly secretive raptors.
As their name implies, they are endemic to Madagascar and live in the eastern part of the island from 14°S to 19°S. Adults are sedentary. There are approximately 250-999 individuals over 17,300 km².
Diet and Hunting:
Chameleons and geckos consist of 83% of their diet, but they also eat tree frogs, bats, and insects. The second part of their name is a bit misleading, for Madagascar Serpent Eagles are known to eat relatively few snakes.
They still-hunt in the canopy by perching and scanning the forest for prey.
Only two nests have been thoroughly documented. From those, scientists have found the nest is made out of sticks and hidden in ferns within the canopy. A single white egg is laid and incubated by both parents for around 40 days, with the female doing the majority. Fledging takes 58-62 days. Pairs have low productivity rates and nest every one to two years.
Madagascar Serpent Eagles are currently listed as Endangered by BirdLife International. Recent research has found that their range is larger than was previously assumed, but the population is declining due to deforestation in the forms of commercial logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Persecution may also be a problem in some areas.
Conservation measures proposed include determining whether they are present in the southern part of the eastern rainforest on Madagascar, refining population estimates, and improving management of protected areas.
Eutriorchis astur is closely related to Gypohierax angolensis (Palm-Nut Vulture), Neophron percnopterus (Egyptian Vulture), and Gypaetus barbatus (Bearded Vulture), since it is part of the subfamily Gypaetinae. In fact, it is more closely related to the above vultures than it is to species within the family Accipitridae.
Long-Tailed Serpent Eagle, Madagascar Forest Eagle, Orlík madagaskarský (Czech), Madagaskarslangehøg (Danish), Madagascar-slangenarend (Dutch), Vööthaugas (Estonian), Madagaskarinkäärmehaukka (Finnish), Serpentaire de Madagascar (French), Schlangenhabicht (German), Aquila serpentaria del Madagascar (Italian), Madagasukaruhebiwashi (Japanese), Fandrasalambo (Malagasy), Tanalaslangehauk (Norwegian), Pregoczub (Polish), Culebrera Azor (Spanish), Madagaskarormörn (Swedish).
Video of a Madagascar Serpent Eagle:
BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet: Eutriorchis astur. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/01/2012.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2012. Species account: Madagascar Serpent Eagle Eutriorchis astur. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 11 Jan. 2012
BirdLife International 2008. Eutriorchis astur. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 11 January 2012.
Ferguson-Lees, James, and Christie, David A. Raptors of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.