Short-toed Snake-eagle Circaetus gallicus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 9,900-16,000 breeding pairs, equating to 19,800-31,900 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 34% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 58,200-93,800 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 50,000-99,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population historically suffered marked declines in northern and central Europe, and it is suspected that these declines are ongoing (Keller et al. 2020). However, range expansions have occurred in southern and eastern parts of Europe (Keller et al. 2020), and the European population is now thought to be increasing (BirdLife International in prep.). An increase has also been reported in the number of mature individuals migrating along the eastern Black Sea coast (Vansteelant et al. 2019). Outside of Europe, declines have been reported in West Africa (Thiollay 2007) and in India (SOIB 2020). Overall, the global population is suspected to be stable.


Behaviour Birds breeding in the Palearctic are migratory, with the population in South-East Asia resident. Most migrants winter in tropical North Africa, with some eastern birds moving to the Indian Subcontinent (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Migrants move south between August and November, and north between February and May (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Birds are usually observed singly or in pairs, even on migration, though migrants will sometimes form groups of up to 12 (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). They soar at c.20-100 m above the ground (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat It uses a variety of habitats within warm temperate and tropical environments, and is recorded up to 2,300 m (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet It specialises in feeding on reptiles, particularly snakes (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site The nest is almost always built relatively low in a tree (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information Although occurring in many habitats, the species always requires some degree of tree cover (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


The species suffered a marked decline in northern Europe in the 19th-20th centuries due to habitat loss and persecution (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In Europe, changes in agriculture and land use have reduced the extent of suitable hunting habitat. In addition snake populations have been reduced by increased cultivation of monocultures, hedge destruction, use of pesticides and the abandonment of traditional farmland and subsequent afforestation. Habitat fragmentation in Europe has resulted from forest fires and road construction. It still suffers from direct persecution in Spain (Martinez et al. 2016) and on Malta (del Hoyo et al. 1994; RSPB 2017). In North Africa, trade has been reported on the Internet (North African Birds 2014) and in Libyan markets (Isenmann et al. 2016). Nest destruction and electrocution from powerlines represent additional threats (Tucker and Heath 1994; Martinez et al. 2016). It is also very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012). In its West African range, the species is vulnerable to habitat degradation through wood harvesting and overgrazing as well as exposure to pesticides (Thiollay 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway
The species is listed on CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II and Raptors MoU Category 3. It is monitored by systematic breeding surveys in at least 6 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018).


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Ashpole, J, Temple, H. & Khwaja, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Circaetus gallicus. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023.