Crested Serpent Eagles

Crested Serpent Eagles (Spilornis cheela)

The Crested Serpent Eagles, Spilornis cheela or Kanmuri-washi, is a bird of prey. Like all eagles, it is in the family Accipitridae. The Philippine Serpent Eagle (S. holospila) is sometimes included here as a subspecies.

Crested Serpent Eagles
Crested Serpent Eagles

Distribution / Range

The Crested Serpent Eagle can be found in a large geographical region from South Asia, including Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, to Southeast Asia, extending to southern China and Indonesia.


The Crested Serpent Eaglesis a medium-large raptor at about 55–75 cm in length. Adults have dark brown upperparts and head and have a hooded appearance at rest. The underparts and underwing coverts are pale brown.

In soaring flight, the broad wings are held in a shallow V. The tail and underside of the flight feathers are black with broad white bars.

When perched, they appear large-headed and owl-like due to the shape of the face and positioning of the eyes. They do not have feathers on their legs.

Sexes are visually similar, but young birds have a whitish head, underparts, and underwing, the latter showing darker barring.

Closeup Image of Crested Serpent Eagles
Closeup Image of Crested Serpent Eagles

Calls / Vocalizations

The call is a distinctive Kluee-wip-wip with the first note being high and rising. They call a lot in the late mornings from perches or as they rise on the thermals in the mornings.

Diet / Feeding

The Crested Serpent Eagles, as its English and scientific names suggest, is a specialist reptile eater that hunts over woodland for snakes and lizards.

Breeding / Nesting

This forest bird nests in treetops near fresh water. Its nests are constructed with sticks and contain not more than a single egg at a time.

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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