The Short-toed Eagle has a wide distribution throughout southern and central Europe from Spain and France east to Iran, Afghanistan and India; Africa.
Northern populations tend to migrate south for winter, whereas the tropical African and Indian populations are resident.
This eagle, as its name suggests, specialises in reptiles - mainly snakes, but some lizards also.
As may be expected from a raptor of its size (slightly larger than a Common Buzzard, it occasionally takes mammals to the size of a rabbit, and (rarely) birds.
In southern Europe the prey is about 95% snakes, 4% lizards, and 1% mammals. Birds seem to be unpalatable, and poultry and game birds are, in general, safe from this bird.
The Short-toed Eagle is generally very silent.On occasions it emits a variety of musical whistling notes, some rather reminiscent of the African Fish Eagle.
Status and behaviour in the wild
The adults are easily recognised in the field by their predominantly white underside. At rest the grey upper parts, barred tail, bare tarsus an brilliant yellow eyes make the European race easy to tell apart from any other eagle in the area.
This is a bird of open or lightly wooded country. They are accomplished fliers and spend more time on the wing than do most members of their genus. They favour soaring over hills slopes or hilltops on updrafts, and do much of their hunting from this position, at heights of up to 500m. When quartering open country they frequently hover - clumsily, but effectively - their wings gently fanning, in the style of a kestrel.
The pair is usually strongly bonded, being seen together outside the breeding season, and often share a kill.
The European race arrive at their breeding grounds in April, and get started without delay. Each pair tends to stick to the same area, but not necessarily the same nest site. The favour a slight hollow in a south-facing slope, where they build a nest that seems to be flimsy for their size, in the top of a tree about 6-7m above ground.
Following nuptial display in which the pair soars high, calls to each other and performs an undulating gliding display, the hen will lay one egg (between late April and early June). She will generally=erally incubate exclusively for 47 days. If the egg fails to hatch, she has been known to remain seated for up to 90 days.
The newly hatched chick is quite feeble, weighing only around 90g, but will commence feathering at 25 days and will be fully feathered and practising wing-flapping by 45 days. AT 60 days the young will commence branching, and will fledge at between 70 and 75 days.
Although the young achieves independence very shortly after fledging, it often remains in the general vicinity of the nest for up to six months.
Breeding does not generally commence until the bird is five years old (rarely four), and the species is known to be irregular and unreliable in its breeding, and very vulnerable to interference, for a bird of its size.