Black-chested Snake-eagles

Black-chested Snake-eagles (Circaetus pectoralis)

The Black-chested Snake-eagles (Circaetus pectoralis) is a large African bird of prey that resembles other snake-eagles.

It was once believed to be conspecific (one and the same species) with the Short-toed Eagle and Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle.

Black-chested Snake-eagles Perched on top of a Tree
Black-chested Snake-eagles Perched on top of a Tree


It has a dark brown head and chest – hence 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 resembles the male but is larger.

Juveniles are rufous coloured.


Black-chested Snake-eagle occur throughout southern Africa from Ethiopia and Sudan in the north to South Africa in the south and Angola in the southwest.

They inhabit semi-arid or desert areas, with open terrain to hunt on, trees to perch and nest in, and sufficient food supply.

Black-chested Snake-eagle Perched on Tree Branch
Black-chested Snake-eagle Perched on Tree Branch


Breeding / Nesting

The female will lay only one egg per clutch, which is incubated for 50 days. The chick leaves the nest when they are about 3 months old.

Calls / Vocalizations

The call is described as a whistled kwo kwo kwo kweeoo.

Diet / Feeding

As its name suggests, this bird feeds mostly on snakes, but it will also prey on lizards, small mammals, and frogs.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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