Order: Accipitriformes

Family:  Accipitridae

Scientific name: Spilornis cheela, Latham, 1790

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. Crested Serpent Eagle got the name due the black feathers on the head which gives a crest like appearance.
  2. Crested Serpent Eagle can be easily distinguished with its penetrating call during flight.


The Crested Serpent Eagle is 50-75 cms long and weighs 400 to 1,800 grams. The upper part is dark brown and under part is pale brown with white spots and fine bars. They have a large head with long feathers on the back of the head that gives a crest like appearance. The face is bare and yellow. The bill is strong and black. The yellow feet have no feathers and are heavily scaled. The wings are rounded and the tail is short. The wing and tail has wide white bars which is visible during flight. Both sexes look similar. Juvenile has whitish head, under parts and under wing.


The diet of Crested Serpent Eagle mainly snakes and lizards. They may also prey on small mammals, birds, fish, frogs and crabs. They sit on a high perch motionless and checks for prey. When a prey is located, it drops almost vertically, and catches it. The forage time is mainly day and it is done solitarily or in pairs.


The Crested Serpent Eagle inhabits forests with thick vegetation, hills, plains and wooded countries. They prefer to hunt over forests and wet grasslands. In India it is distributed throughout the wooded parts of the country. It is also seen in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Reproductive Behaviour

The breeding season Crested Serpent Eagle starts in the late winter. On courtship the birds soars with a noisy call and also raises tail, with a rapid vibration of half closed wings. The nest is a large platform made of sticks and is lined with leaves and is placed in the top of large trees. Both parent birds take part in nest building. Normally one egg is laid. The female eagle incubates the egg for 40-41 days. The male guards the egg when the female forages. When the young one comes both the parents take care of it.


The call is a penetrating high pitched screaming “kek-kek-kek-kee” whistle.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Andaman Serpent Eagle (Spilornis elgini).
  • Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle (Spilornis klossi).
  • Mountain Serpent Eagle (Spilornis kinabaluensis).
  • Spilornis cheela cheela of Pakistan, North India and Bangladesh.
  • Spilornis cheela melanotis of peninsular India.
  • Spilornis cheela spilogaster of Sri Lanka.

Migratory Behaviour

Non Migratory, Common Resident.