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Western Banded Snake Eagle
Circaetus cinerascens

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: Banded Harrier-eagle, Banded Snake-eagle, Smaller Banded Snake-eagle, Smaller Banded Snake Eagle, Western Banded Snake-eagle.

Circaetus cinerascens
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical. SENEGAMBIA east to southern SUDAN and western ETHIOPIA, south to the Zambezi River, west to ANGOLA and NAMIBIA and east to ZIMBABWE and ZAMBIA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: According to the molecular study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), which was based on the molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear entron, the snake eagles of the genus Circaetus form a monophyletic group that is sister to the Old World vulture group, Aegypiinae, as was found earlier by Wink (1995). They are also related to the Congo Serpent Eagle (Dryotriorhis spectabilis), but not to the Madagascar Serpent Eagle (Eutriorchis astur).

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Sedentary in southern Africa, but may leave its nesting territories seasonally in other areas. Brown et al. (1982) suggested that there is an influx from August to October in East Africa, and in Uganda, there are more records from August to October and again in February (Carswell et al. 2005). Southward movements have been recorded locally during rains in West Africa (Borrow and Demey 2001).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs mostly in moist riparian woodlands, forest edges and clearings, and savanna woodland. It is secretive and often overlooked, but it can be detected by its characteristic call from high soaring birds (Ash and Atkins 2009). It is solitary and spends most of its time perched on the upper branch of a dead tree overlooking open ground or a wetland (Tarboton 1990). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, and lizards, frogs, fish, and insects, which it captures in trees, or by stooping from a perch below the canopy. more....

Breeding: There are few actual nest records from southern Africa, but some aspect of breeding activity has been reported from all times of the year (Herremans 1997). Builds a small stick nest, which is well concealed within foliage or among creepers (Kemp and Kemp 1998). Clutch size is one egg. Tarboton (1990) described a nest found in May 1984 along the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls as being a small stick structure about a half meter in diameter and lined with leaves. It contained a single, week-old chick, which was being fed snakes by both adults. more....

Conservation: Locally common or uncommon in most parts of its large range, but with a patchy distribution. Subject to habitat threats in some areas from human development, habitat loss, and elephant damage to riparian habitats (Simmons 2005). Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) suggested that it might be declining, but did not provide specifics. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) placed the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 1,000 to 10,000 individuals. BirdLife International (2009) did not make a specific population estimate, but noted that there are probably at least 10,000 individuals.

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Herremans, M. 1997. Western Banded Snake Eagle. P. 201 in J.A. Harrison et
  al. (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines.
  BirdLife South Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Western Snake-eagle. P. 132 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. Western Banded Snake-Eagle Circaetus cinerascens. Pp.
  497-498 in P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.),
  Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird
  Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.
Snow, D.W. 1978. An atlas of speciation in African non-passerine birds.
  Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

Deacon, Neil

Last modified: 6/1/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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