species of the week # 46- short-toed snake eagle

The short-toed snake eagle is significantly larger than a buzzard and has a wingspan of 160 to 178 cm. It prefers to use thermal winds and likes to hover over its favorite hunting grounds with little effort. However, it can also “rattle” in the air just like kestrels. If necessary, the eagle even hunts on foot. When laying eggs, only a single white egg is laid and incubated for about 47 days. The snake eagle can be easily recognized by its thick round brown head on a dark neck. The dark head is especially noticeable in flight. The eyes are yellow, the short-toed snake eagle, like all eagles, has strong legs. The call of the male is surprisingly melodious.

Distribution status Extinct in Rhineland-Palatinate
Residual occurance As a summer visitor in Rhineland-Palatinate, breeding bird in Spain, France and the Netherlands.
Last sightin in rhineland-palatinate 2018, Engelstadt near Gau-Algesheim
Habitat Sunny mountain ranges, cultivated landscapes with low vegetation and semi-deserts
Threat Hunting, nest destruction, food loss

Short-toed snake eagles are rarely seen in Central Europe today. When sightings of this eagle species do occur, it is usually from June to mid-September – as summer visitors in suitable biotopes or on their way to the wintering grounds south of the Sahara.
As the name suggests, short-toed snake eagles are absolute food specialists. This bird of prey feeds primarily on snakes. Their favorite food is vipers, but snake eagles also eat lizards, frogs and rarely birds. They need about one or two snakes a day to feed. Due to this special prey spectrum, the short-toed eagle is only found in reptile-rich areas, such as moorland and heathland, but also in wet meadows and mountains. Climate change is especially affecting the wetlands and accordingly worsening the food supply for the short-toed eagle. In addition, eagles are unfortunately still regularly hunted and poisoned in Germany. Both have been strictly prohibited since 1970.

Politically necessary:
– More staffing to combat environmental crime
– Better and implemented management plans in protected areas
– Consistent enforcement of the EU Birds Directive
– Comprehensive action against climate change

To further species of the week here

Image: By Ion Ruiz from Spain – Culebrera, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19943092