Southern banded snake eagle

During courtship displays, they perform spiraling dives and engage in mid-air talon-locking displays with their mates

Maans Booysen

During courtship displays, they perform spiraling dives and engage in mid-air talon-locking displays with their mates

Population 1,000 – 3,000
6-29% population decline over three generations

A rare and enigmatic bird of prey that graces the skies of sub-Saharan Africa. Known for its preference for snakes, this eagle has evolved several distinctive characteristics that make it uniquely suited to its role as a specialist hunter in the savannas and woodlands of this vast region.

This raptor’s plumage is an intricate tapestry of brown with notable black and white bands across its belly and wings. These bands add to the bird’s striking appearance and serve as excellent camouflage against the dappled light of its woodland habitats. When perched silently amongst the foliage, the southern banded snake eagle is nearly invisible to both prey and observer, allowing it to launch surprise attacks on unsuspecting snakes and lizards.

The southern banded snake eagle’s wings are long and broad, optimized for soaring and gliding over open landscapes in search of food. This eagle descends with breathtaking speed and agility when a potential meal is spotted. Its prominent crest, a tuft of feathers atop its head, is not just for show; it may play a role in displaying behaviors that are not yet fully understood due to the bird’s secretive nature.

Armed with razor-sharp talons and a hooked beak characteristic of birds of prey, the southern banded snake eagle can deftly handle slippery and often venomous snakes. Its keen eyesight is crucial, allowing the eagle to detect the slightest movements on the ground below, even from high altitudes.

Despite its prowess, the southern banded snake eagle faces habitat destruction and fragmentation threats due to human encroachment. As savannas and woodlands are cleared for agriculture or developed for human settlement, the eagle loses its hunting grounds and potential nesting sites. Conservation efforts for this species must focus on preserving its natural habitats and maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystems it calls home.


Population est.
South Africa

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No