Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Short-toed Snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus)


French: Circaète Jean-le-Blanc German: Schlangenadler Spanish: Culebrera europea
Other common names: Short-toed Eagle

Falco gallicus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,



Name C. ferox formerly applied to this species, but is unidentifiable. Closely related to C. beaudouini and C. pectoralis; these two frequently considered races of present species owing to claims of mixed pairs in zones of overlap and reports of apparently intermediate specimens, but all direct reports of interbreeding are result of misidentifications of subadult C. pectoralis, while the specimens are all unequivocally assignable to one or other taxon#R. E Asian population formerly treated as a race, heptneri, but geographical variation clinal. Isolated population of Lesser Sundas may be racially distinct; on average somewhat smaller and may have different timing of moult, but little known. Monotypic.


NW Africa and SW Europe N to Gulf of Finland and E to L Balkhash, NW China and NW & N Mongolia and, in S, to Asia Minor, Levant countries, S Caucasus and W & N Iran; Indian Subcontinent; Lesser Sundas (from Lombok to Timor). W populations winter in Sahel zone of Africa; E populations winter S & SE Asia, some S to Greater Sundas.

Descriptive notes

62–70 cm; male 1200–2000 g, female 1300–2300 g; wingspan 166–188 cm. Large snake-eagle with mid-length tail, comparatively small body, protruding head... read more


Two common vocalizations, both given in flight and perched but almost exclusively in breeding... read more


Varied habitats mainly in warm temperate and tropical zones; from open woodland and even fairly... read more

Food and feeding

Specializes on reptiles, particularly snakes, which constitute 70–80% of prey or more (especially in W & S Europe). Regional... read more


Lays in Apr in S Europe and Morocco (where overall season can last to mid Oct); Apr–May in N Iraq; Dec–Feb in Indian... read more


Migratory in Palearctic. Generally does not move in flocks but concentrations occur at short sea... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Declined markedly in past, disappearing from most of C & N Europe in 19th century; possibly stable overall by end of... read more

Recommended citation

Orta, J., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Short-toed Snake-eagle (Circaetus gallicus). 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 24 February 2020).