Crested serpent eagle

   ›      ›   Crested serpent eagle - Spilornis cheela.

The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These crested serpent eagle species are distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and East Asia.

Taxonomy of Crested serpent eagle

  • Scientific Name: Spilornis cheela
  • Common Name: Crested serpent eagle
  • French: Serpentaire bacha; German: Schlangenweihe; Spanish: Culebrera chiĆ­la;
  • Other names: Falco Cheela Latham, 1790;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Latham, 1790
Spilornis cheela is closely related to S. klossi, S. holospilus, S. kinabaluensis and S. rufipectus. It was earlier included in the genus Falco.
The twenty one recognized subspecies are: S. c. perplexus, S. c. cheela, S. c. melanotis, S. c. spilogaster, S. c. burmanicus, S. c. davisoni, S. c. ricketti, S. c. hoya, S. c. rutherfordi, S. c. malayensis, S. c. batu, S. c. palawanensis, S. c. pallidus, S. c. richmondi, S. c. bido, S. c. minimus, S. c. abbotti, S. c. asturinus, S. c. sipora, S. c. natunensis and S. c. baweanus.

Indian birds - Image of Crested serpent eagle - Spilornis cheela
Indian birds - Image of Crested serpent eagle - Spilornis cheela


The crested serpent eagle is a medium sized bird, measuring 50 to 75 cm in length and weighing 400 to 1,800 grams. The wingspan is 100 to 170 cm. Considering the large number of subspecies of these eagles, there is wide variation in size and appearance. They have a large head with long feathers on the back of the head giving crested appearance. The face is bare and yellow. The yellow feet are unfeathered and heavily scaled. The wings are rounded and the tail is short. The tail has wide white and black bars. Their call is a loud, piercing, distinctive Kluee-wip-wip sound.


The crested serpent eagle inhabit a wide variety of tropical and subtropical forests with thick vegetation both on the low hills and the plains. They hunt over forests and wet grasslands.

Feeding habits

The crested serpent eagle feed mainly on snakes and lizards. They may also prey on small mammals, birds, fish, frogs and crabs.


The crested serpent eagle breeding season starts in the late winter. The nest is a large platform made of sticks and is lined with leaves. both the male and female eagles take part in nest building. The usual clutch is one egg. The female eagle incubates the egg. Both the parent eagles take part in raising the chick.


The crested serpent eagle subspecies S. c. perplexus is distributed in Ryukyu Islands of Japan. S. c. cheela is distributed in Pakistan, North India, Nepal and Bangladesh. S. c. melanotis is distributed in peninsular India, Gujarat and Gangetic Plain. S. c. spilogaster is distributed in Sri Lanka. S. c. burmanicus is distributed in Myanmar, Southern China and Thailand. S. c. davisoni is distributed in Andaman Islands of India. The crested serpent eagle subspecies S. c. ricketti is distributed in Southeast China and North Vietnam. S. c. hoya is distributed in Taiwan. S. c. rutherfordi is distributed in Hainan in China. S. c. malayensis is distributed in Peninsular Malaysia and North Sumatra. S. c. batu is distributed in Batu Islands. S. c. palawanensis is distributed in Philippines. S. c. pallidus is distributed in north Borneo in Indonesia. S. c. richmondi is distributed in South Borneo in Indonesia. The crested serpent eagle subspecies S. c. bido is distributed in Java and Bali in Indonesia. S. c. minimus is distributed in Central Nicobar Islands of India. S. c. abbotti is distributed in Simeulue Island of Indonesia. The eagle subspecies S. c. asturinus is distributed in Nias Islands of Indonesia. S. c. sipora is distributed in Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. S. c. natunensis is distributed in Natuna Islands of Indonesia. The eagle subspecies S. c. baweanus is distributed in Bawean Island of Indonesia.

Movement Patterns

The crested serpent eagle are sedentary in their ranges. The juveniles may disperse widely.

Status and conservation

The crested serpent eagle global population size has not been quantified, but it is common in its ranges and considered least vulnerable. Habitat loss and loss of tree cover are the main threats for the survival of these eagle species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these eagle species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Spilornis cheela
Species:S. cheela
Binomial name:Spilornis cheela
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and East Asia;
Feeding habits:reptiles like snakes and lizards; also on small mammals, crabs, fish, frogs and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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