Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Black-chested Snake-eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)


French: Circaète à poitrine noire German: Schwarzbrust-Schlangenadler Spanish: Culebrera pechinegra
Other common names: Black-breasted Snake-eagle

Circaeetus [sic] Pectoralis

A. Smith

, 1829,

South Africa


Closely related to C. gallicus and C. beaudouini; all three often considered conspecific, as mixed pairs reported, but see C. gallicus. Monotypic.


Eritrea and Ethiopia S to South Africa.

Descriptive notes

63–71 cm; 1178–2260 g; wingspan 160–185 cm. Large snake-eagle, with substantial cowled head, thick neck and longish wings that reach almost to the tail tip... read more


Largely silent except when breeding: gives harsh, high-pitched "kaa-rrr" or "shreeee... read more


Open areas of savanna and steppe, extending into deserts and clearings in woodland and forest, but... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly snakes (including venomous species and up to 1·8 m long) and small lizards (up to size of 1 m-long water monitor), but takes... read more


Laying during dry season: Nov–Jun in NE and E Africa; May–Jan in C Africa; Jun–Feb in Zimbabwe and South Africa; Jun... read more


Known to be highly nomadic and possibly even makes regular intra-African migrations: a non-breeding... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and often locally common, but also appears to be unaccountably scarce in some areas, and no estimates of... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M., Bonan, A., Marks, J.S. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Black-chested Snake-eagle (Circaetus pectoralis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).