|Conservation status||Least concern|
The brown snake-eagle is fairly large - in fact, the largest of the birds named "snake-eagle" - with a body length of up to 28 inches, a wingspan of up to 66 inches, and weighs up to 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Females are slightly larger than males. The plumage is dark brown throughout, with the underside of the wing primaries and secondaries light gray to white, with the primaries tipped in black. The unfeathered legs are light gray. The iris of the eyes is bright yellow. The top and the bottom of the tail is an indistinct triple light and dark banding, with the tips of the tail feathers pale colored.
Range and habitat
The brown snake-eagle occurs in nearly all countries in Africa south of the Sahara desert, with the exception of South Africa and those countries sharing the Congo river rain forest basin; it is also absent from very arid grasslands. It is found in open forests, savannas with scattered trees and dry bush landscapes.
Brown snake-eagles will sometimes be in flight during a search for prey, but, like other snake-eagles, it prefers still-hunting from trees or rocky crags. The prey is usually devoured on the ground and only rarely in flight. The prey consists mainly of snakes, but it will also take lizards, small mammals, birds up to the size of guinea fowl or occasionally chickens.
The brown snake-eagle's breeding season is varied, and depends on location; it is from November through February in western Africa, February through May in central and eastern Africa, and July through March in southern Africa. It builds small nests of thin branches lined with green leaves, about two feet wide and up to a foot deep, and are placed in trees between ten and thirty-six feet above the ground; more often than not it will take over abandoned nests of other species. The clutch consists of one egg, and is incubated for 48-50 days nearly exclusively by the female.
Due to the very large range and the assumed stable population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies the brown snake-eagle as "least concern". However, it has been cited that livestock overgrazing, farming, and loss of woodland to both is having a detrimental effect on the species, which is decreasing in numbers. Prey loss to over-hunting and fishing, in addition to the use of pesticides, has also been cited.