The Black-chested Snake Eagle is often seen hunting for their preferred serpentine prey over flat, open habitats such as savanna, grasslands, scrublands and semi-deserts. Apart from snakes they’ll also catch other reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. These eagles are quite adept at swallowing even large snakes in flight.
Usually seen singly or in pairs but occasionally congregating in groups numbering several dozen outside of the breeding season, Black-chested Snake Eagles form monogamous pairs to breed. Their breeding season spans winter and spring – probably as sparser vegetation then makes it easier to catch slithering prey. Females usually lie a single egg in a platform nest built of sticks in the tops of trees or on utility pylons. The egg hatches about 2 months later. The chick is fed by both parents and starts flying at about 3 months old. Fully grown they boast a wingspan of 1.8m and weigh around 1.5kg.
The Black-chested Snake Eagle is distributed widely over east, central and southern Africa, and is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN. It has a rather patchy distribution over most of South Africa, being most frequently encountered in the north-eastern provinces and less often towards the southwest.