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Beaudouin's Snake-eagle Circaetus beaudouini
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This species occupies a large range, within which it occurs at low density and faces a number of threats. It qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its small population, which has declined rapidly.

Taxonomic source(s)
Clark, W. S. 1999. Plumage differences and taxonomic status of three similar Circaetus snake-eagles. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 119: 56-59.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

60-66 cm. Large snake-eagle. Grey-brown above with a barred white belly. Three to four tail bands. Plain grey legs and cere. Sexes similar. Juveniles are all dark brown above and below with some white streaking on the head, and barring on the flanks. Similar spp very similar to Short-toed Snake-eagle which occurs within the range in winter. That species is slightly larger with proportionately longer wings. Adult Beadouin's has plain underwing coverts whereas Short-toed typically has dark barring.

Distribution and population
Circaetus beaudouini occupies a relatively narrow band of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal, Gambia and south Mauritania in the west to southern Sudan and South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya in the east (per S. Thomsett in litt. 2013), and south to Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic. The species's population is generally sparsely distributed. For example, in four months of extensive field work in eastern Guinea-Bissau during early 2013, only seven individuals of this species were recorded (one of the records was obtained during a systematic biodiversity assessment and the remaining observations were opportunistic) (P. Rodriguez et al. in litt. 2013). As it occurs at low densities, its global population is not thought to exceed 10,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It is estimated to have decreased by more than 86-93% over the last 30-35 years, based on comparative roadside counts conducted across its range between Senegal and Niger (Thiollay 2006). In general, however, confusion with wintering Short-toed Snake-eagles C. gallicus may mean that C. beaudouini has previously been under-recorded (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2013), thus hampering the estimation of population trends.

Population justification
It occurs at low densities and survey data suggest there are a minimum of 1,000 individuals (J. M. Thiollay in litt. 2006), but in the context of the species's large range the population is better estimated at 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Thiollay (2006) estimates that this species declined globally by 86-93% between 1969-1973 and 2004. Declines are conservatively estimated here to have taken place at a rate of 30-49% in three generations (39 years), but may prove to have been be higher.

It inhabits dry savannah but favours more open areas of grassland and even cultivated areas. It is a seasonal migrant, moving between the Sudan zone (and northern Guinea zone) in the dry season and the Sahel (and northern Sudan) zone in the rainy season, and is thinly distributed, territorial and generally solitary.

West African raptors have declined owing to a number of threats associated with a three-fold increase in the human population within the region over the past 30 years (Thiollay 2006). Habitat destruction has resulted from agricultural intensification, overgrazing, woodcutting (Thiollay 2006) and major developments (G. Rondeau in litt. 2007), such as urbanisation. Woodcutting for fuelwood, timber and charcoal has caused conversion of woodland into shrubland (Thiollay 2006). Agricultural intensification has led to aerial and ground spraying of insecticides to control insect outbreaks (Thiollay 2006). More specifically, the species is threatened by the spread of cotton fields and the associated use of organochlorine insecticides (G. Rondeau in litt. 2007). Insect swarms were previously an important source of food for raptors directly, or their prey. Livestock are virtually ubiquitous, especially in the Sahel where overgrazing is a major cause of desertification (Thiollay 2006). In addition, hunting has exacerbated the decline.

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in a number of protected areas across the region which are of increasing importance for it and other large raptors in West Africa. They currently cover just 0.85% of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further coordinated surveys to establish population estimates and global trends for the species. Establish protection for remaining habitat where grazing and wood-cutting can be kept to a minimum. Investigate potential threats to this species across its range, in particular, the impact of trade on birds in West Africa.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Thiollay, J.-M. 2006. Severe declines of large birds in the northern Sahel of West Africa: a long-term assessment. Bird Conservation International 16(4): 353-365.

Thiollay, J.-M. 2006. The decline of raptors in West Africa: long-term assessment and the role of protected areas. Ibis 148: 240-254.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Barlow, C., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Guilherme, J., Mirinha, M., Ndang'ang'a, P., Rodrigues, P., Rondeau, G., Thiollay, J. & Thomsett, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Circaetus beaudouini. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Beaudouin’s snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author Verreaux & Des Murs, 1862
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,470,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species