Sulawesi Serpent Eagle - Spilornis rufipectus | The Eagle Directory

Sulawesi Serpent Eagle - Spilornis rufipectus

Family: Acciptridae
Genus: Spilornis
Species: S. rufipectus
Subspecies: S. r. rufipectus, S. r. sulaensis

Sulawesi Serpent Eagles are small forest-dwelling raptors endemic to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Physical Description:

Sulawesi Serpent Eagles are dark brown from above and have a short bushy crest. The crown and nape are rufous-buff, the cheeks are dark gray, and the throat is black. They have a dark brown belly, flanks, and thighs with white spotting and barring, and the chest is rufous. The tail is black and has a white tip and a brown-white central band. The wings are marked with a single wide gray band and two narrower bands along the base of the primary feathers. The eyes, cere, lores, and legs are yellow. Subspecies S. r. sulaensis is larger and paler in color than the nominate S. r. rufipectus, and has a black-gray throat and and clearer barring on the breast and belly.

Juveniles are cream-white on the crown, nape, and cheeks, with black patches behind the eyes. The mantle and back are buff, and the wings are brown with pale edges and white bases. They have dark brown shoulders, brown secondary feathers, and black primary feathers; the tail is dark brown with a gray-white tip and three brown-gray bars. The breast is buff-white with dark brown spotting and there are rufous streaks on the belly and thighs. Eyes are gray, the cere and lores are greenish-yellow, and the legs are yellow.

Their call is a "fli wi keek" or a repeated "keek" or "kek". Listen to a Sulawesi Serpent Eagle.


Length: 46-54 cm
Wingspan: 105-120 cm

Habitat and Distribution:

They inhabit primary, montane, and secondary forest, woodland, forest edges, and cultivated areas. Sulawesi Serpent Eagles are found from 0-1,000+ meters above sea level, though most often between 205-850 m.

They are endemic to the island of Sulawesi and surrounding islands in Indonesia. Adults are assumed to be sedentary. There are an estimated 10,000 individuals.

Diet and Hunting:

Lizards, snakes, and rodents have been recorded in their diet. Their hunting methods may be similar to those of Spilornis cheela (Crested Serpent Eagle), and they have also been observed over open grassland. They are attracted to grass fires and the animals that die from the heat.


The breeding season is probably January-April, for fledged young have been recorded in May.


They are currently listed as Least Concern by BirdLife International, though deforestation is a significant threat.


Spilornis rufipectus was formerly considered a subspecies of Spilornis cheela (Crested Serpent Eagle).


There are two subspecies: S. r. rufipectus is found on Sulawesi and surrounding islands, and S. r. sulaensis is found in the nearby Sula archipelago.

Other Names:

Celebes Serpent Eagle, Orlík rudoprsý (Czech), Sulawesislangeørn (Danish), Celebesslangenarend (Dutch), Celebesinharjakotka (Finnish), Serpentaire de Célèbes (French), Celebesschlangenweihe (German), Aquila serpentaria di Sulawesi (Italian), Suraweshichuuhiwashi (Japanese), Sulawesisnokørn (Norwegian), Wezojad celebeski (Polish), Culebrera de Célebes (Spanish), Sulawesitofsörn (Swedish).

Video of a Sulawesi Serpent Eagle:

BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet:Spilornis rufipectus. Downloaded from on 07/04/2012.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2012. Species account: Sulawesi Serpent Eagle Spilornis rufipectus. Downloaded from on 7 Apr. 2012
BirdLife International 2009. Spilornis rufipectus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Downloaded on 07 April 2012.
Ferguson-Lees, James, and Christie, David A. Raptors of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.