Southern Banded Snake Eagle - Circaetus fasciolatus | The Eagle Directory

Southern Banded Snake Eagle - Circaetus fasciolatus

Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Circaetus
Species: C. fasciolatus

Southern Banded Snake Eagles are coastal raptors that live in eastern and southern Africa. They were formerly considered a subspecies of Circaetus gallicus (Short-Toed Snake Eagle), but are now classified as a full species. They form a superspecies with Circaetus cinerascens (Western Banded Snake Eagle).

Physical Description:

Southern Banded Snake Eagles are gray-brown along the head and have a brown chest and white barring along the belly. The back and wing-coverts are black and the long tail has a wide subterminal band. The eyes, feet, and cere are pale yellow. Adults may be confused with Circaetus cinerascens (Western Banded Snake Eagle), but that species is larger and has less barring and longer wings.

Juveniles are brown from above and are streaked white on the head. The wing-coverts have white tips and there are narrow black streaks along the throat. There is brown barring on the flanks and thighs and they have five brown bars on the tail.

Southern Banded Snake Eagle calls are a rapid "ko ko ko ko kaw", which is emitted when perched and in flight.


Length: 55-60 cm

Habitat and Distribution:

They inhabit coastal and subcoastal forest close to rivers, lakes, and swamps, from 0-1,500 meters above sea level. Southern Banded Snake Eagles are usually found within 20-40 km of the coast, though they have been recorded up to 500 km inland in Tanzania and 250 km in Zimbabwe.

They live in southern Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and northeastern South Africa, from 2°N to 31°S. They are irruptive or local migrants, with adults moving north during the southern winter. There are an estimated 1,000-3,000 individuals over a range of 601,000 km².

Diet and Hunting:

They primarily eat small animals, including snakes, lizards, insects, mice, and amphibians; they have also been known to catch chickens.

They hunt from a perch along forest edges or clearings.


Recorded breeding displays consist of soaring, dives, and calling. Pairs are monogamous. The breeding season is from July-October in eastern Africa and October-November in South Africa.

The nest is built by both parents out of sticks and placed in the fork of a tree. It is 50-70 cm across and lined with green leaves. One green-white, rufous-streaked egg is laid and incubated for 49-51 days, mostly by the female, though the male may help during early incubation. Nestlings are sometimes taken by Haliaeetus vocifer (African Fish Eagle).


Their available habitat has been decreased by loss of coastal forest, but there is no current evidence that their total range or population is decreasing. Southern Banded Snake Eagles have been listed as Near Threatened by BirdLife International.

Conservation measures proposed include surveys to monitor their population and forest clearance and degradation, in addition to increasing the size of current protected areas.


Circaetus fasciolatus used to be considered a subspecies of Circaetus gallicus (Short-Toed Snake Eagle). C. fasciolatus forms a superspecies with C. cinerascens (Western Banded Snake Eagle), and Circaetus was found to be a sister genus to Old World vultures in the Aegypiinae group.

Other Names:

Banded Harrier Eagle, East African Banded Snake Eagle, East African Snake Eagle, Fasciated Snake Eagle, Fasciolated Snake Eagle, Southern Banded Harrier Eagle, Dubbelbandslangarend (Afrikaans), Båndslangeørn (Danish), Grijze slangenarend (Dutch), Rand-madukotkas (Estonian), Pikkuköörmekotka (Finnish), Circaète barré (French), Graubrust-schlangenadler (German), Biancone fasciato (Italian), Minamiobichouhiwashi (Japanese), Kystslangeørn (Norwegian), Culebrera barreada (Spanish), Tai Miraba Kusi (Swahili), Sydlig bandad ormörn (Swedish).

Other Multimedia:

None available.

BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet: Circaetus fasciolatus. Downloaded from on 13/03/2012.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2012. Species account: Southern Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus fasciolatus. Downloaded from on 13 Mar. 2012
BirdLife International 2008. Circaetus fasciolatus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Downloaded on 13 March 2012.
Ferguson-Lees, James, and Christie, David A. Raptors of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.