Archived 2014 discussion: Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini): uplist to Endangered?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

BirdLife species factsheet for Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle

Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle Circaetus beaudouini occupies a relatively narrow band of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal, Gambia and south Mauritania in the west to southern Sudan and South Sudan in the east and south to Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic. It is currently listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd; C1+2a(ii), based on its small population which has declined rapidly owing to a number of threats associated with a 3-fold increase in the human population within the region over the past 30 years (Thiollay 2006). It occurs at low densities so its global population was not thought to exceed 10,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Survey data suggest there are a minimum of 1,000 individuals (J. M. Thiollay in litt. 2006) but, in the context of the species’s large range, the population was estimated at 2,500-9,999 mature individuals (which equates to c.3,750-14,999 individuals).

Thiollay (2006) compared large-scale roadside counts through Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, conducted in 1969-73 and 2004, and concluded that this species had decreased outside protected areas by 86-93%. Within protected areas however there was no significant change in numbers. Overall declines were previously conservatively estimated to have taken place at a rate of 30-49% in three generations (39 years in this species). However, if there is sufficient evidence to suspect that the global population of this species has declined by 50-79% over the past 39 years, and similar declines are suspected in the future, this species would warrant uplisting to Endangered under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd of the IUCN Red List. Should sufficient evidence suggest that the global population of this species is <2,500 mature individuals, it is in continuing decline at a rate of ≥20% over two generations (26 years), and ≥95% mature individuals are in one subpopulation, it could also qualify as Endangered under criterion C1+2a(ii).

Information is requested on this species’s global population size and trends from throughout the range. Comments on its distribution are also welcome, particularly any evidence of its occurrence in Kenya where its status is uncertain.


Thiollay, J. M. (2006) The decline of raptors in West Africa: long-term assessment and the role of protected areas. Ibis 148: 240-254.

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6 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini): uplist to Endangered?

  1. Hugo Rainey says:

    There may be limited data available from the range of this species given the number of conflicts that are ongoing in the region. The status of the species should therefore be considered in late of trends in principal threats or drivers of threats (i.e. human population growth). It seems unlikely that the human population growth rate will decline and therefore a predicted elevated rate of decline is not unreasonable.

  2. Simon Thomsett says:

    The Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle’s Western distribution is better known than its north central and eastern population. The recent breeding records in western Kenya and sight records (Brian Finch and Martin Odino) may extend its range into a much broader land area than previously assumed. It has a vast range but all lie outside nations with sound environmental future. Given that the factors stated above esp by Thiollay are universal throughout Africa, bar a few nations and the acknowledgment that these factors will conclude in uplisting, virtually all raptors must be included. I would unhesitatingly uplist all and then downlist those known to be commensal or highly tolerant of man the Beaudouin’s included.

  3. Patrícia Rodrigues, Marco Mirinha and João Guilherme says:

    In 4 months of extensive field work in the Eastern part of Guinea-Bissau, we recorded only 7 individuals of Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle (Circaetus beaudouini). One of the records was obtained while making a systematic biodiversity assessment and the remaining observations were opportunistic.

    A systematic vertebrate survey was made between the 31st January and the 3rd of May 2013 . We sampled birds along 42 transects (total of 238 km) in an area of 3,561 (12º38’N 14º14’W, 12º25’N 13º58’W, 11º58’N 14º48’W, 11º45’N 14º33’W). We had only a positive identification of the species while doing the systematic survey: an adult male was seen and photographed by Marco Mirinha at a rice field (bolanha), on the 10th of February 2013 near the village of Tabandinto (12º6’54’’N 14º36’23’’W) around 11:43 am.

    The remaining 5 records represent opportunistic observations. Two adults were observed by Marco Mirinha on the 6th of March 2013 near the village of Sintcham Dembel (12º29’59’’N 14º6’15’’W) around 11:25 am. Another individual was seen and photographed near Béli (exact location unregistered) in the Boé region by Marco Mirinha on the 13th February at 13:26. Also in the same region, three more individuals were seen by João Guilherme (JG): 1 perched near Vendu Tcham (11°51’20”N 14°07’30”W) on the 22nd January; 1 perched north-west of Béli (11°52’18”N 13°54’44”W) on the 11th February and one photographed soaring overhead in Lugajole (13°51’25”N 11°48’34”W) on the 14th February.

    As a preliminary conclusion, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle seems to be rather scarce and patchly distributed across the area where the systematic survey was carried out. We can hypothesise that this region may be in general too forested for the species, coupled by the fact that it has a relatively high density of small rural villages. Further south, in the region of Boé, the habitat is more open and the human density is much lower, hence likely with more suitable conditions for the species. Indeed, it appears to be somewhat more common there.

    Systematic survey – FCT Project: Cashew in West Africa: socio-economic and environmental challenges of an expanding cash crop (PTDC/AFR/117785/2010). Tropical Research Institute, Lisbon, Portugal. JG was founded by Chimbo Foundation.

  4. Andy Symes says:

    The following comments were received from Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire on 20 August 2013:

    I advise against uplisting this snake-eating raptor from VU to Endangered.
    Since this form was considered as conspecific with Short-toed (C. gallicus) for a long time, it appears that a lot of records of “Short-toed” could have applied to either, as either the race was not specified, or people just put “Short-toed” in case they were not sure. Thus in Ghana, for many years only “Short-toed” was recorded from coastal areas, but it seems that in fact it is more likely that the form there is beaudouini (now identified in Shai Hills by competent observers such as Nik Borrow).
    We strongly suspect that Beaudouin’s has been under-recorded, and it seems premature to want to uplist this form. Besides, a reptile-eating bird cannot be threatened by decreasing prey supply, as its prey remains abundant. It does require some large trees for nesting, and in that case is expected to disappear from heavily-populated areas, like many other species. [The two are very difficult to separate under most field conditions, even by people like us for whom one of them – gallicus – is a garden bird when we are at home. And the last word is not yet out on whether or not they really are best treated as separate species.]

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List would be to close this discussion and retain Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle Circaetus beaudouini as Vulnerable under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd; C1+2a(ii).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.