The serpent-eagles of the genus Spilornis are an Asian group, not to be confused with two different genera found in Africa or, for that matter, the snake-eagles, a mostly African but also European and Asian genus (simple, right?). The Spilornis serpent-eagles are represented by a number of insular species and one widespread mainland species, the Crested Serpent-eagleThis species ranges from India to Japan and south down Borneo. They live in forests and along forest edges where they specialise in hunting snakes and lizards.

I was lucky enough to see this species a couple of times when I was in Borneo, where it shares the island with the related endemic Mountain Serpent Eagle. In Borneo it is typically found in lowland areas compared to the mountain species. I first saw them in the remnant forest at Gomantong Caves, where we flushed one up off the road and into the bushes, from where we got great close up views from the van.

HiddenAt first we could barely see it.

Crested Serpent EagleThen he hopped up to a clearer perch.

Crested Serpent EagleIn this photo you can just see the band across the tail.

Crested Serpent Eagle 3

In this shot you can see the crest

Another was found in the parking lot by the visitor centre.


The banded tail is much clearer in this shot


Feel the power of the glower!

Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.