Serpent eater belongs to the hawk family. As the name implies, it eats snakes, but this is not the whole diet of a bird of prey. In ancient legends, the snake-eater is often referred to as the blue-footed crook or simply krachun.
Description and Features
Some people confuse the snake-eater with the eagle, but the most attentive notice a small similarity between them. Translated from Latin, the name krachun means "round face". The head of the snake-eater is really large, round, like an owl. The British nicknamed him "the eagle with short fingers."
The fingers are actually shorter than the hawks, the black claws are curved. The eyes are large, yellow directed forward. Looks closely with alertness. The beak is large, strong, lead-gray, the sides are flattened, bent down.
The physique is tight. The color of the bird's back is grayish-brown, the neck area is brown, feathers are light on the stomach with dark spots. Dark stripes are located on the wings and tail. Paws and fingers are grayish-blue. Young individuals are most often colored in brighter and darker colors. Sometimes you can meet a dark serpent.
As was said, the snake-eater is large, in size resembles a goose. The body length of an adult bird reaches 75 cm, the wingspan is impressive (from 160 to 190 cm). The average adult weight is 2 kg. Females have the same color as males, but are slightly larger than them (this is sexual dimorphism).
Serpent eater Belongs to the class of birds, the order of Falconiformes, the family of hawks. In nature, there are many subspecies of snake-eater. The most popular are the following.
- The common snake-eater is small (up to 72 cm in length). The back is dark, the neck and stomach are light. Eyes are bright yellow. Young birds have a similar color, like adults.
- Black-chested reaches a length of up to 68 cm, wings in a wingspan of 178 cm, weight up to 2.3 kg. Head and chest are brown or black (hence the name). The abdomen and the inner surface of the wings are light.
- Baudouin's serpent eater is the largest subspecies. The wingspan is about 170 cm. On the back, head and chest, the plumage is grayish-brown. The belly is light in color with small dark stripes. The legs are elongated gray.
- Brown is the largest representative of the species. The average length of 75 cm, wingspan 164 cm, body weight up to 2.5 kg. The outer surface of the wings and body is dark brown, the inner is gray. On the brown tail are light stripes.
- Southern striped krachun has an average size (length not more than 60 cm). The back and chest are dark brown, the head is a lighter shade. There are small white stripes on the stomach. The tail is elongated with longitudinal white stripes.
- Crested the snake-eater is a stocky bird with rounded wings and a small tail. Plumage from gray to black. On the head is a black and white crest (hence the name), in a state of excitement he puffs.
In addition to these subspecies, there are Madagascar and western striped snake-eaters. In Russia, there are European and Turkestan snake-eaters.
Lifestyle & Habitat
Lifestyle and habits are more reminiscent of a buzzard than an eagle. This is a balanced, but at the same time moody bird. It draws attention exclusively to prey and more successful snake-eaters in hunting. Near the nest he is careful not to scream. During the day, he slowly hovering in the sky, hunting. Snake-eater sitting on a tree can be seen only in the evening and morning hours.
Serpent eagle - a hidden, cautious and quiet bird. Lives in desert areas with lonely trees, which are necessary for the construction of nests. Dry grasslands with low grass and small shrubs are preferred. She especially likes the evergreen flora with coniferous thickets and deciduous trees. In extreme heat, birds like to sit on a tree, stretched out without movement.
The range of serpent-eaters covers Africa in the north-west and southern Eurasia, Mongolia and India, Russia (even Siberia). In Asia, they prefer to live in the steppe zones with rare trees for nesting, in the north the snake-eater dwells close to dense forests, swamps and rivers, where favorite food (reptiles) lives.
One adult hunts at a distance of 35 square meters. km As a rule, between the sections adjacent to each other there is a neutral two-kilometer zone (the same distance is observed during the construction of nests). During the hunt, they often fly around settlements.
Northern and southern birds differ in their way of life: northern birds are migratory, southern birds are sedentary. Snake-eaters migrate over vast distances (up to 4700 km). European representatives winter only on the African continent and in the northern part from the equator. Areas with a semi-dry climate and average rainfall are selected.
Snake-eaters begin to migrate in late summer, in mid-September, birds reach the Bosphorus, Gibraltar or Israel. In total, the flight lasts no more than 4 weeks. The return road after the wintering of birds runs along the same route.
Despite the fairly wide distribution, the characteristics of the lifestyle and behavior of these birds are not well understood. In some countries (including our state) snake-eater is listed in the Red Book.
The snake-eater is a shy bird. At the sight of an enemy (even a person) it flies away without delay. The grown up chicks will not be offended, they are able to protect themselves with their beaks and claws, and the kids just lie low and freeze. Birds constantly communicate with each other, like to play together. The male frolics with the female, chasing after her. Most often held in groups of 6-12 individuals.
Diet serpent feeding narrow enough, the menu is limited. Most often, birds feed on vipers, snakes, coppers and snails, sometimes lizards. In winter, most snakes fall into a state of suspended animation, when life processes in the body slow down or even stop, which is why they are in a fixed position.
Feathered hunters track their prey not earlier than noon, when there is a peak in the activity of reptiles. Birds act with lightning speed, because of which the victim does not have time to resist. In addition, horny shields are located on the legs of the birds, which serves as additional protection.
In addition to the reptiles, the feathered diet consists of turtles, mice, frogs, hedgehogs, rabbits, and small birds. One adult bird absorbs two medium-sized snakes per day.
Reproduction and longevity
Snake-eaters form new couples each season. Some spouses remain faithful to each other for several years. Marriage dances are quite simple. The males chase the females, then the female sits on a tree.
Then the male throws a stone several meters down, and then rises back into the sky. There are times when in his beak he holds a dead prey, which he drops to the ground, while issuing lingering cries.
Immediately after returning from warm places (in the beginning of spring), birds begin to build nests. It is built high in the upper part of the tree so that potential enemies do not reach the offspring. It is strong enough, the family has been using it for several years, but inaccurate and small in size.
The female does not fit entirely in the nest: her head and tail are visible from the outside. Both spouses are engaged in construction, but the males devote more time, effort and attention to this. Bird nests are located on rocks, trees, and tall bushes.
The main materials for construction are branches and knots. On average, the nest is 60 cm in diameter and more than 25 cm high. The inside is lined with grass, green twigs, feathers and pieces of snake skins. Greens serve as camouflage and sun protection.
Masonry is carried out from March to May in Europe, in December in Hindustan. Most often, one egg is in the clutch. If 2 eggs appear, then one embryo dies, as the parents stop taking care of it as soon as the first chick appears. Because of this, the snake-eaters are considered a lazy bird.
Eggs are white, elliptical in shape. The incubation period lasts 45 days. The male assumes all responsibility for the female and newborn babies. The female makes its first flight a month after the hatching of the chicks. Toddlers are usually covered with a white fluff. In case of danger, the mother transfers the chick to another nest.
At first, the babies are fed with chopped meat, when the chicks turn 2 weeks old, they are given small snakes. If the chick begins to eat the snake from the tail, the parents select the prey and force them to eat from the head. In addition, they try to bring the baby a living snake so that it gradually learns to fight with prey.
At the age of 3 weeks, the chicks themselves can cope with reptiles 80 cm long and 40 cm wide. Young birds must draw food from their parents' throats: adults bring still alive snakes, which the chicks pull by the tail from the throat.
At 2-3 months, the birds take to the wing, but for 2 months they live "at the expense of their parents." For the entire period of feeding, the parents deliver about 260 snakes to the chick. The snake-eater has a lifespan of 15 years.
A remarkable fact is that the crook has a very pleasant voice, reminiscent of the sound of a flute or Oriole. He performs a cheerful song returning to his native nest. Females have a less melodic voice. You can watch the snake-eater hunting with pleasure. The bird has very good eyesight, so it hunts high in the sky.
She can soar for long hours in the air, looking for prey. Noticing the victim, she throws herself on the ground with a stone, developing a speed of up to 100 km / h, spreads her paws and digs her claws into the body of the snake. With one paw, the snake-eater holds the snake by the head, the other by the body, with the help of a beak, biting the tendons on the neck.
While the snake is still alive, the draper always eats it from the head. He does not tear it to pieces, swallowing it whole. With each sip, the serpent eater breaks the victim's ridge. Snake-eater in the photo often presented with a snake in its beak.
While hunting a snake common snake-eater exposes itself to danger every time, but does not always die from a bite. Bitten snake-eaters are in a painful state, limp. Even a little delay can cost him his life.
The snake is able to entangle the bird from head to toe, turning it into prey. The main defense of the snake-eater is dense plumage and strength. Ornithologists have witnessed more than once, as a gripper squeezed in a strong "embrace" held a snake by its head until it fell dead.
You can watch the birds walk on foot to get food from the ground. Also, during the hunt, the snake-eater walks in shallow water, grabbing prey by its paw. Adult grunts are able to survive the absence of a favorite treat, but they feed the chicks exclusively with snakes.
Over a lifetime, a snake-eater eats about 1000 snakes. The number of snake-eater is declining. This is due to various reasons: deforestation, poaching, a decrease in the number of reptiles. Therefore, this species is listed in the Red Book.