10 Beautiful Birds of Prey Sighted in Uganda

The ‘Vulnerable' Beaudouin's snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini) near Kilak, north Uganda. Bird shown here is an adult. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski.

Yvonne de Jong and Thomas Butynski are exploring northern Uganda to study primates, but that’s not all they’ve discovered. See what they found when they lifted their eyes to the skies.

Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle

During our survey of primates in February 2015, we were also on the look-out for raptors, as that is the time of year when many migrant species are wintering in East Africa.

At a bushfire near Kilak (about half way between Murchison Falls and Nimule National Parks) we encountered a large greyish-brown snake-eagle that we couldn’t identify. Neither of us had seen this eagle before.

Later, with bird books at hand, we determined that this mystery bird was a Beaudouin’s snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini). This large raptor is endemic to the Sahel region between the desert and savanna, and is rare in Uganda—there are no documented records for elsewhere in East Africa. As best as we can determine, ours is only the second photographic record of this species for Uganda (see the previous one here).

The “Vulnerable” Beaudouin’s snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini) shown her near Kilak, north Uganda. (Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski)

With a wingspan of about 5.5 feet (170 cm), the Beaudouin’s snake-eagle preys on small vertebrates (including snakes) in savanna, woodland, grassland, and cultivated areas.

Little studied, this eagle is uncommon throughout its geographic range from West Africa eastwards through South Sudan. Birdlife International estimates the global population at fewer than 10,000 individuals.

As Beaudouin’s snake-eagle faces a number of serious threats and its population has declined, it is now categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. All of the threats (such as habitat degradation, habitat loss, and pesticides) are related to the high human population density throughout its range.

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