An inhabitant of savannas and open woodland areas, where they are often seen on high vantage points such as dead trees or utility poles, the Brown Snake Eagle subsist on a diet of snakes (large and venomous kinds included) and other reptiles and smaller mammals.
Adult Brown Snake Eagles are usually solitary, except in the summer breeding season when they form monogamous pairs and construct their stick nests on the flat crowns of thorn trees, also often taking over the abandoned nests of other raptors and refurbishing these for their own needs. They usually lay and hatch only one egg at a time, the female incubating the egg for around 7 weeks with the male feeding her at the nest and the hatchling taking to the wing for the first time when it is about 3 months old. Adult Brown Snake Eagles weigh around 2kg, and measure about 74cm in length with a wingspan of 1.6m or so.
Despite noting that some populations are declining due to habitat loss and poisoning, the IUCN currently lists the Brown Snake Eagle as being of least concern. It is widely distributed over the savanna regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Africa is found predominantly in the north-east of the country, from Kwazulu-Natal to North West Province through Mpumalanga, Limpopo and northern Gauteng, where they are much more commonly encountered inside large conservation areas than outside in the adjacent rural areas.