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A Crested Serpent Eagle after a morning feast 

Spilornis cheela


The Crested Serpent Eagle gets its name cheela from its Hindi meaning kite. This medium sized bird of prey that soars at a significant height in the sky is a true reflection of wonder. It is distributed in most parts of the Oriental region. It has been found that the species can live in captivity up to 50 years. Their lifespan in the wild has yet not been recorded.


As the name suggests Crested Serpent Eagles enjoy feasting on snakes. However, their diet is not limited to this as they also prey on small mammals and birds. It’s ability to soar coupled with its remarkable vision makes hunting a simple task. Moments of the species feeding can be witnessed in forest habitats, wetlands and even urban areas. 


While the species isn’t highly selective about its habitat, the presence of forested areas has a strong relationship with their abundance. They do not spend much time in interior thick forests and prefer edges or secondary forests due to the ease of flight through less compact greenery.  The main requirement for trees by the species is for nest making. Most often they are seen soaring or perched on a branch. 


Crested Serpent Eagles are diurnal species that can be observed in broad daylight. They are easy to observe due to their size, flight shape and morphometric features that includes a dark brown body with a black hood on the head and a single broad pale band across its tails and wings during flight. It also has bright yellow eyes that cannot be missed. Its black crest gives its identity away quite easily. 


The courtship behavior of the species is quite intriguing with the pair engaging in a unique flight pattern involving multiple dives. Their soaring is also accompanied by a distinct call that can differ according to geographical region.  


As apex predators, Crested Serpent Eagles are considered as important species for maintaining the trophic balance of eco systems. Due to its position in the trophic cascade it is also considered to be a good indicator of eco system health.