Short Toed Snake Eagle: The Ultimate Guide


Just like its name might suggest, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is a bird of prey that is medium-sized with shorter talons than other birds of prey.

On average, they have a length of around 25-28 inches (which is around 63-68cms) and an average wingspan that reaches around 185-195cms (which is the equivalent of 73-77 inches).

Additionally, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is also usually around 1.7-1.9kgs in weight, which equates to 3.7 to 4.2lbs.

As for their physical characteristics, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is a distinctive bird of prey that usually tends to have a striking white underside, along with upper parts that are usually colored a grayish brown. 

To follow, the head is often rounded in appearance with shades of white and brown, with a hooked bill that is considerably smaller than what is average in birds of prey, as well as golden eyes that create a striking contrast to the rest of the face.

As for the legs, both males and females have long legs that are free from any feathers, although they are covered with a tough, scale-like texture to help protect them from rough branches, foliage, and snake venom. 

Male Vs Female

As juveniles, the Short Toed Snake Eagle is usually covered in down-like feathers that are usually shades of white and brown.

As adults, both female and male Short-toed Snake Eagles are extremely similar in appearance, and each tends to consist of brown upperparts and white underparts, as well as a typical dark brown upper breast area, as well as a dark brown face area with occasional lighter shades running vertically down the forehead.

Nevertheless, there are a few differences between both the male and females, as female Short-toed Snake Eagles tend to be much larger (on average) than the males.

Are They Aggressive?

The Short-toed Snake Eagle, while a relatively solitary bird, is known to display aggressive behavior and become very territorial if they feel that themselves or their nest is being threatened.

In these sorts of encounters, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle has been known to let off a very deep call in order to scare off whatever it is that is threatening them.

What Adaptations Do They Have?

The Short-toed Snake Eagle has a variety of different survival adaptations that have allowed it to hold its own and survive in the wild.

As a bird of prey that predominantly feeds on snakes, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle has scaly legs that help to keep them protected from any venomous snakes that may harm them while hunting.

They have powerful wings that allow them to fly for long periods of time, as well as a wide base tail that helps them to stay balanced while in flight.

As for the eyesight, these birds have a very sharp vision which gives them an advantage while hunting, as well as strong talons that help them to cling onto branches and snatch their prey.

Breeding / Reproduction Behaviour

During the breeding season, the male Short-toed Snake Eagle will take to the skies to carry out a beautiful aerial display in the hopes of attracting a female partner.

To begin the courtship, the male Short-toed Snake Hawk will steeply climb into the air, falling and rising in gentle curves that look as though they are forming a horizontal “S” shape in the sky.

In order to raise their chances of attracting a female, the male will usually carry a snake in its bill and will present it to the female.

If accepted, the pair will then take to the skies together, calling out to one another as they swoop and soar around one another.

Once mated, the pair will form a lifelong partnership and be inseparable. With every new breeding season, the female partner will begin building a new nest that is usually over 1000ft above ground, making sure that the location is always hidden out of plain sight.

The female will then lay one egg and incubate it alone for a time period of between 45-47 days. Then, once the chick has hatched, both parents will feed and protect their offspring, until it is ready to fledge and leave the nest after a period of around 60 days. 

Their Calls / Sounds

The Short-Toed Snake Eagle is quite a noisy bird and is especially vocal during the breeding season and while they are close to the nest.

The Short-Toed Snake Eagle is known to vocalize several different types of calls and sounds, including a call that resembles “ok-ok-ok” as well as a loud, blunt “jeet” noise, too.

More often than not, the males are the most vocal out of the two sexes, and will usually call out to the females during the breeding season, especially during the courtship stage to attract a female.

However, when they are threatened and need to display aggressive behavior, Short-toed Snake Eagles will give off very deep calls in a repetitive manner, in order to appear to be more threatening and larger than they actually are, in the hopes of scaring away whatever is threatening them.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

The Short-toed Snake Eagle will typically feed on a variety of different reptiles, including snakes of all different sizes, and has even been known to hunt snakes upwards of 1.8 meters in length.

Despite showing a tendency to prey on snakes and other types of reptiles (hence the name) the Short-Toed Snake Eagle will usually feed on reptile species that aren’t venomous, although it does have tough scales all along its legs to help protect it from any snake bites while hunting.

In addition to preying on different types of snakes, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle will also feed on a variety of other food sources, including slow worms, geckos, chameleons, and even sometimes lizards.

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

Short Toed Snake Eagle

The Short-Toed Snake Eagle is most commonly found in warm climates that see plenty of sunshine throughout the year, so it should come as no surprise to hear that this bird of prey favors tropical regions as opposed to colder ones.

Typically, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is commonly found in large, open woodlands, partial desert environments, as well as dense forest areas.

As a side note, while hunting, it should be noted that the Short-Toed Snake Eagle will frequently switch up their habitats in search of food, including foraging in pastures, patches of large vegetation, in hilly, mountainous areas, as well as occasionally in agricultural areas, too.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Once a partnership has been established between a male and female Short-Toed Snake Eagle, the female is typically the one that builds the nest while the male stands guard and hunts for food.

The female will usually build the nest in treetops that span over 1000ft above the ground, and will often nest below the tree canopy so that the nest is hidden from any predators flying overhead.

The nest is typically made of twigs and leaves of the surrounding trees and is large enough to fit both herself and her male partner, as well as their egg.

How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

On average, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle will live for a period of around 7-10 years, although this figure can often change depending on biological and situational factors.

What Predators Do They Have?

As a bird of prey, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is at risk of being hunted by eagles that are larger than them, as well as being illegally hunted by humans.

So much so, that over the years, illegal hunting of these birds has contributed to them becoming at risk of becoming endangered.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

In adults, the body usually consists of a brown, black, and white color pattern across the feathers, while the finer barring can also sometimes be seen across the underparts which tend to be lighter in color than the rest of the body.

The flight feathers are usually dark brown in color, while the upper tail feathers are usually brown with dark brown bars.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

The poop of the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is much like any other bird poop! Typically, it is brown and has a runny consistency that is covered in white excrement. 

Do They Migrate?

Yes, the Short-toed Snake Eagle does migrate and is the only bird in the Northern Hemisphere that does not follow the typical migration pattern of going south in the fall and north in the spring.

Instead, the Short-toed Snake Eagle opts to go north in the fall months and south in the springtime of the year.

Conservation Status

At the time of writing, the Short-Toed Snake Eagle is not globally at threat of becoming extinct.

Over the years, this bird has been at risk of becoming endangered and potentially extinct due to deforestation and illegal hunting, however, the population has returned to a conservation status classification of “stable”.

With a slow but steady increase in population rates, the future seems to be bright for the Short-toed Snake Eagle!

Fun Facts

The Short-toed Snake Eagle can spot its prey from up to 1,500 feet away thanks to its exceptional eyesight.

As adults, the Short-toed Snake Eagle has the potential to kill a 6-inch cobra!

While only young, the Short-toed Snake Eagle is taught how to swallow snakes head first.