Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Brown Snake-eagle (Circaetus cinereus)


French: Circaète brun German: Einfarb-Schlangenadler Spanish: Culebrera sombría

Circaetus cinereus


, 1818,





W Africa from S Mauritania and Senegambia E to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and S to Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.

Descriptive notes

71–78 cm; 1500–2500 g; wingspan 160–185 cm. Largest snake-eagle, with blocky, cowled head, stout neck, moderately long legs, heavily scaled tarsi and toes,... read more


Vocal in nesting season, producing hoarse "hok hok hok" calls in response to intruders and soft "... read more


Open woodlands and savannas, dry thorn-scrub, areas with low hills and gentle ridges, arid steppes... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly snakes, including large and venomous species, but also large lizards and less often rodents, native galliforms (Francolinus... read more


Laying Nov–Feb in W Africa and NE Democratic Republic of the Congo; Feb–May in E and C Africa; Jul–Mar in S Africa.... read more


Sedentary resident in many areas, but long-distance recoveries (e.g. adult ringed in South Africa... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and conspicuous but often at low density, such as 1 pair/200 km2 in Kenya. Vulnerable to clearing of woodland... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Brown Snake-eagle (Circaetus cinereus). 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).