Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Sulawesi Serpent-eagle (Spilornis rufipectus)


French: Serpentaire des Célèbes German: Celebesschlangenweihe Spanish: Culebrera de Célebes

Spilornis rufipectus


, 1858,

vicinity of Macassar, south-west Sulawesi


Considered closely related to S. cheela, S. holospilus, S. klossi and S. kinabaluensis. Taxonomic status uncertain: sometimes regarded as conspecific with S. cheela. Form sulaensis poorly differentiated, and perhaps of questionable validity. Two subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. r. rufipectus Gould, 1858 – Sulawesi, and islands of Salayar, Muna and Butung (off S & SE coasts).
  • S. r. sulaensis (Schlegel, 1866) – Banggai Is and Sula Is, off E Sulawesi.
  • Descriptive notes

    41–54 cm; wingspan 105–120 cm. Medium-sized serpent-eagle; similar to S. cheela, especially in being vocal and conspicuous, but has completely dark hood... read more


    Gives a repeated “keek” or “kek”, and “fli-wi-keek”, probably... read more


    Forest edge and openings (including rice fields), coconut groves, wooded gardens, secondary forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Virtually nothing known, although recorded prey items include lizards, small snakes and rodents; overall diet and habits most likely... read more


    Fledged young in May; laying estimated to take place in Jan–Feb. Singles or pairs engage in high-circling flights, accompanied by... read more


    Apparently sedentary, although it has been suggested that juvenile dispersal could reach adjacent... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and common, e.g. in Dumoga Bone National Park (N Sulawesi). Occurrence and foraging in open grassland and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clark, W.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Sulawesi Serpent-eagle (Spilornis rufipectus). 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).