Black-chested snake eagle

Black-chested snake eagle
Black-chested snake-eagle (Circaetus pectoralis).jpg
With a snake
Awash National Park, Ethiopia
Scientific classification edit
C. pectoralis
Binomial name
Circaetus pectoralis
( A. Smith, 1829)

The black-chested snake eagle or black-breasted snake eagle (Circaetus pectoralis) is a large African bird of prey of the family Accipitridae. It resembles other snake eagles and was formerly considered conspecific with the short-toed and Beaudouin's snake eagles, to which it is closely related[2][3].


Although originally proposed as separate species, many authors previously considered both the black-chested and Beaudouin's snake eagles to be subspecies of the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus)[2][3]. However, this convention was not followed by all taxonomists, with some citing differences in adult plumage and breeding ranges as evidence in favour of awarding each full species status[2]. Brown (1974) followed this latter view, but cited several instances of alleged hybridization between the three forms which would justify their treatment as a single species under the Biological Species Concept[2]. However, Clark (1999) suggested that these alleged hybridization events may have instead resulted from misidentification of juvenile or subadult black-chested snake eagles as adults of other species[2].

A molecular phylogenetic analysis based on two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron showed that the Circaetus snake eagles form a monophyletic group that is sister to the Old World vulture group, Aegypiinae[4]. This study also suggested that the black-chested snake eagle was more closely related to the brown snake eagle (Circaetus cinereus) than to the short-toed snake eagle, supporting its taxonomic recognition as a separate species[4]. However, a different molecular phylogenetic study by Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2004) found that the black-chested and short-toed snake eagles form a clade together with the bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus). The black-chested snake eagle is thus commonly considered to form a superspecies with the short-toed and Beaudouin's snake eagles.

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