Silent & Solitary - 2015-09-16
A year ago we were treated to very special sightings of a pair of Black-chested Snake Eagles and later also a juvenile bird. We could never find the nest site
Last year perching from this tree regularly
The Juvenile sighted a couple of times last year.
During August this year we noticed the Eagles presence a couple of times and took this photo @ Dula Nokeng.
For the last few weeks history is repeating it self and a Black-chested Snake Eagle is frequenting our area. Seen yesterday again with a snake as prey dangling as it flew away.
Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagles are common raptors that occur in the Bushveld and Lowveld areas. These birds of prey are best identified by their large yellow eyes and their square heads.
Snake-Eagles have unfeathered legs covered in robust scales. This feature distinguishes them from true eagles like Wahlberg’s and Tawny Eagles. This feature is also best suited for their diet consisting mainly of snakes, as their name suggests. The scales covering the legs provide protection from the bites of snakes that are not killed on impact. Snakes are not stored in their crops like other birds, but rather swallow their prey directly into the stomach. Apart from snakes, lizards, rodents, insects, birds and fish also make up the diet of snake-eagles. These items may however be stored in the crop. Interestingly, the crop of raptors is situated around the neck and not in the front like other birds.
Snake-Eagles are generally solitary, except during the breeding season. The chicks are fed on snakes which are swallowed with only the tail sticking out. At the nest the chick will grab the tip of the tail pulling the snake out. The chick will then swallow the snake with some contortions of the necks.
Black-chested Snake-Eagles are quite resourceful. These raptors hover over (called aerial perching) edge of veld fires from where they catch the reptiles fleeing from the fires. When prey is spotted, black-chested Snake-Eagles will descend from a height of 450 m, striking the snake behind the head ultimately crushing it with its talons. The prey item needs to incapacitate to reduce the chance of being bitten by venomous snakes that they hunt.
Brown Snake-Eagles are often seen perched at the top of a tree from where they descend to catch their prey. They will drop onto the snake, crushing its spine with its talons and crushing the skull with the beak at the same time. The snake is swallowed whole. Prey may be regurgitated several times and swallowed again to find a comfortable position in the stomach.