089 Short-toed (Snake) Eagle
(Circaetus gallicus)


62-69cm. The Short-toed Snake Eagle is a large, pale eagle with both long and broad wings. Tail length about 4/5 of or equal to width of wing, tail narrow at base and square-cut when folded, corners sharp. Neck short and head broad, almost owl-like on perched birds (but not always apparent on flying). Flight silhouette when gliding characteristic, carpals held well forward and wings bowed or arched when seen head-on. Outer secondaries and inner primaries long, giving rather straight rear edge of wing even when carpals are pressed forward. Soars on flattish wings. Hovers, or hangs motionless in the wind by making small wing adjustments. Very pale underparts separate it from most other species; silvery-white with sharply set-off dark grey head/breast is typical, rows of dark spots across belly and wing-coverts and loosely barred flight- and tail-feathers. Tail has three evenly spaced dark bars, with a hint of a fourth on some, bars visible above as well. Tips of outer primaries shaded grey, darkest along edges, unlike buzzards (which have solidly blackish tips).


In Hungary the Short-toed Eagle breeds in small numbers in hilly areas (especially Northern Uplands) mainly in oak stands on southern slopes. Seldom occupies woods at lower elevations, such as those on the Danube-Tisza Plain. Migrant. Stays in in Hungary between late March and October. Non-breeding summer visitors regularly occur on the Great Plain, primarily east of the River Tisza, most frequently in pusztas. They increase significantly in number when, after breeding, newly arrived adult and juvenile birds join them.

089 Short-toed (Snake) Eagle pic

© Graphics by Szabolcs Kókay

Source: 1) Lovászi Péter (editor): Javasolt különleges madárvédelmi területek Magyarországon, Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2002; 2) BirdLife International:IUCN Red List for birds. Species factsheet; 3) Králl Attila, Nagy Károly: Fontos Madárélőhelyek Magyarországon (Területek, kritériumok és minősítő fajok) MME Monitoring Központ, 2007; 4) Szabolcs Kókay bird illustrations; 5) www.hungarianbirdwatching.com bird descriptions and checklists, 2004-2012; 6) Lars Svensson et al.: Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe 2nd Edition, Harper Collins, 2010; 7) MME Nomenclator Bizottság: Nomenclator avium Hungariae. An annotated list of the birds of Hungary. Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2008