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Crested Serpent Eagle
Spilornis cheela

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Ceylon Serpent Eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle.

Spilornis cheela
click to enlarge
Distribution: Indomalayan/Palearctic. Most of the Indian subcontinent, including the Himalayas, from PAKISTAN, KASHMIR, and NEPAL east through TIBET, southern CHINA (Hunnan), and TAIWAN, south through Indochina, Malaysian Peninsula, and PHILIPPINES (Palawan) to INDONESIA and BORNEO; ANDAMAN ISLANDS. more....

Subspecies: 14 races. S. c. batu: Southern SUMATRA and BORNEO; S. c. bido: JAVA and BALI; S. c. burmanicus: Eastern BANGLADESH, southern and eastern INDIA (Assam), BURMA, THAILAND, and INDOCHINA (except Tonkin). S. c. cheela: PAKISTAN, KASHMIR, NEPAL, BHUTAN, BANGLADESH, INDIA (northern and western Assam); S. c. davisoni: ANDAMAN ISLANDS and possibly NICOBAR ISLANDS; S. c. hoya: TAIWAN; S. c. malayensis: Southern Tenasserim, THAILAND, and MALAYSIA; S. c. melanotis: INDIA south of 25 degrees N; S. c. palawanensis: PHILIPPINES (Palawan); S. c. pallidus: Lowlands of northern BORNEO; S. c. richmondi: Southern BORNEO; S. c. ricketti: SOUTH CHINA (Tonkin); S. c. rutherfordi: CHINA (Hainan); S. c. spilogaster: SRI LANKA.

Taxonomy: The species boundaries of this group are unclear, and many forms that are separated as full species in this list may actually be races of S. cheela. See the discussion in Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2000) for justification of the treatment followed here and an earlier paper by Amadon (1974), who discussed the problems involved in determining the taxonomic status of the island forms.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Also an altitudinal migrant in some areas.

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in well-wooded hills to 1,900 m (up to 2,500 m in Taiwan), and in lowlands, margins of agricultral land, and mangroves (Brazil 2009). It is tolerant of a fair amount of habitat disturbance, as long as some large trees remain. In Malaysia, it is sometimes found hunting in overgrown edge situations far into plantations and other agricultural areas, and it is particularly common in mangroves (Wells 1999). In Hong Kong, it is found soaring over marshes, wooded areas, and rocky hilltops in search of sunning snakes (Carey et al. 2001). Also hunts from a perch. Usually seen singly, or in pairs, but sometimes small groups of four or five occur.more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mostly on snakes, but also takes lizards, frogs, toads, and occasionally small birds. Typically still-hunts from a canopy-level perch both inside forest and at edges, dropping to capture prey on the ground or snatching it from vegetation (Wells 1999).more....

Breeding: The nest is a medium-sized structure of sticks, and the cup is lined with fresh, leafy twigs (Wells 1999). Nests are placed in trees of various species. The clutch size is one egg. Both members of the pair build nests, and birds sometimes, but not always, re-use old nests (Wells op cit.).more....

Conservation: Widespread and, in many parts of its range, this is the most common eagle species. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population, including all adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season, in the range of 100,101 to 1,000,000 individuals, with the actual population probably being in the lower hundreds of thousands. BirdLife International (2009), which includes most Spilornis taxa under this species, did not make a population estimate.

Important References: 
Chou, T.-C., P.-F. Lee, and H. Chen. 2004. Breeding biology of the Crested
  Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela hoya in Kenting National Park, Taiwan. Pp.
  557-568 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors
  worldwide. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlinn, and MME-BirdLife
  Hungary, Budapest.
Clark, W.S. 1994. Crested Serpent-eagle. P. 133 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.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Lin, W.-H. 2005. [A review of the breeding ecology of the Crested Serpent
  Eagle in the Taipei area]. Raptor Research of Taiwan 5:31-44. (In Chinese
  with English summary)
Naoroji, R. 1994. Observations on the courtship, nesting and hunting
  behaviour of the Crested Serpent-eagle. Journal of the Bombay Natural
  History Society 91:311-313.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, A&C Black Publishers Ltd., London.
Naoroji, R.K., and S.G. Monga. 1984. Observations on the Crested
  Serpent-eagle (Spilornis cheela) in Rajpipla forests - South
  Gujarat. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 80:273-285.
Ueta, M., and J.S. Minton. 1996. Habitat preferences of Crested Serpent
  Eagles in southern Japan. Journal of Raptor Research 30:99-100.

Sites of Interest:
Crested Serpent Eagle photos.

Chen, Huisheng
Kothe, Sudhanshu
Panke, Pritish
Soni, Hiren
Suparman, Usep
Withaningsih, Susanti

Last modified: 4/24/2011

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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