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Aves bird of the week – Black-chested Snake-Eagle – Circaetus pectoralis

Black-chested Snake-Eagle

The Black-chested Snake-Eagle - Circaetus pectoralis - is an African bird of prey found in Africa from Ethiopia and southern DRC to South Africa. It inhabits different habitats, ranging from semi desert and open grassland to Karoo scrub and closed deciduous woodland.


The main identification character of this bird is its dark brown head and chest, to which it owes its name. In flight the dark head contrasts with the underparts and underwings, which are white apart from dark barring on the flight feathers and tail. The upperparts are dark brown, and the eye is yellow.

The female is similar to, but larger than the male, and the juvenile is rufous.


The call is a whistled kwo kwo kwo kweeoo.


They feed mostly on snakes, but will also prey on lizards, small mammals and frogs.


A territorial solitary nester, the nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a saucer-shaped structure of sticks, lined with green leaves and placed in the canopy of a flat-topped Acacia. The egg-laying season in South Africa is from June-August. The female will lay only one egg per clutch, which is incubated for between 50 to 52 days, mainly by the female. The chick is brooded and fed by the female, with food provided by the male. It eventually leaves the nest at between 90 to 113 days and usually fully independent six months later.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Due to its wide distribution this species is not endangered.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves Birding Tour/Safaris/Adventures see these magnificent eagles: -

Aves Arid Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.


Photographed by Peter Sievers


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