Meet the Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) or plain “Short-toed Eagle”. It is a raptor of open countries, grass/ scrublands and semi-deserts, which, as its name suggests, loves to devour snakes and reptiles and occasionally mammals as well. And yes, the toes (or talons) are shorter compared to other birds of prey.
Among raptors, this one is quite easy to spot and differentiate. When flying, it showcases a wide wingspan, and pale, almost white underside. When perched, its yellow eyes and almost owl-like two-eyed stare bores right through you…
They are rather friendly and unafraid compared to many other raptors. They let you get quite close, give you that wise, two-eyed look and then go back into their shell, enjoying the breeze. When in flight, they are unmistakable. The gray head, pale white and grey color, the unique tail position and the huge wing -span. As it banks and turns in flight, you can see the prominent gray upper side as well.
Even though the Short-toed Snake Eagle is still classified as LC (Least Concern) on the IUCN Red List, this majestic bird’s numbers are on the decline, due to more and more scrub land being converted for agriculture and urbanization. Loss of such habitat means they fly elsewhere to hunt for snakes, and someday, they run out of elsewhere…
Text and photos by Sandeep Somasekharan
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