Crested serpent eagle : The snake hunter


The Crested Serpent Eagle or Spilornis cheela, is named after its dietary habit of feeding on crawling animals, rodents, reptiles and other small birds. The word ‘serpent’ was derived from a Latin word meaning snakes or crawling animals. This raptor is locally known as lang kuik and its size can be up to 74 cm. Spilornis cheela belongs to the family Accipitridae. Hunting for snakes can be dangerous, but for this fierce and yellow faced raptor, its legs are installed with armor-like scale to protect it against snake bites.

This bird usually hunts from a high perch at the edges of clearings, open forests and on wet grassland areas. However, interestingly at FRIM, it is possible to see it walking on the ground searching for food. For a closer look, you can try looking for it on the lamp posts and low branches at the roadside of Jalan Jelutong. It can also be seen near Herbarium building (B8), Bukit Bujang and Bukit Lagong area. Usually at noon, this raptor will be hovering and soaring up in the air above FRIM’s forest while rising on thermal. It will usually utter a shrill whistle ”iluii..kii-kii-kii-kiiluii”, sounding much like a bicycle pump. This big bird will become very noisy when alarmed and will raise its crest.

The crested serpent eagle is usually a lone-ranger but sometimes can be seen in pairs, when they will stay and hunt together all year round. This raptor can be found in all kind of forests, mangroves and shrubs up to 1900 m a.s.l. The conservation status for this raptor is classified as ‘Least Concerned’ based on IUCN Red List.

Posted on 3 August 2012. The temperature for the week was forecasted at 24°-33° Celsius, cloudy with no expected rain.Pictures by Nor Azlin, M.F