Wild Birds

Western Banded Snake Eagles

The Western Banded Snake Eagles (Circaetus cinerascens) is a grey-brown African raptor with a short tail and a large head. Juveniles have paler and browner upperparts than adults, with white-edged feathers.

The head, neck, and breast are dark-streaked. The underparts are white with pale brown streaks, mainly on the belly and thighs.

Subadults may be all dark grey-brown without any streak on underparts. The eyes, ears, and legs are yellow. They have crested chests.


Western Banded Snake-eagles live in woodlands, mainly along rivers, but they avoid dense forests. The west-banded eagle makes a nest and then makes a new one the next year


Western Banded Snake-eagles mainly hunt snakes, but also other small vertebrates, ambushing from a perch. They drop from the perch to the trunk, foliage, or ground. They are solitary birds, and very secretive. Due to their sedentary lifestyle, they are often detected only by their calls.

Geographic range

They are found in Africa in the northern tropics from Senegal and Gambia east through to Ethiopia and then south to southern Angola and Zimbabwe, mostly west of the Rift Valley, but are mostly absent from the western lowland equatorial forests. They inhabit woodland and forest edges. This is an uncommon bird which is often difficult to spot. Its distribution is patchy and it is vulnerable to loss of its riverine habitat. It feeds primarily on reptiles and amphibians which it captures either on the ground or in trees.


The Western Banded Snake-eagle sometimes rises to soar, while it calls above the canon. They utter a high-pitched ‘kok-kok-kok-kok-kok’, and it is loud.


The Western Banded Snake-eagle nests among creepers and foliage. It builds a small stick-nest, well concealed within vegetation. The female lays only one egg. Incubation may last between 35 to 55 days, mainly by females. The young fledge after 10 to 15 weeks.


BirdLife International 2004. Circaetus cinerascens. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 24 July 2007.


  • Bouglouan, Nicole. “Western Banded Snake-Eagle.” http://www.oiseaux.net. 2 July 2008. Ecopains d’abord. 25 Feb. 2008 http://www.oiseaux.net/birds/western.banded.snake-eagle.html>.
  • Sinclair, Ian, and Phil Hockey. The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Princeton University Press, July 24, 1995.

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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