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Europe, Africa and Asia.
Occasional in southern Europe in winter but most move to tropical Africa and follow the major migration routes Gibraltar, the Bosphorus and Borcka in Turkey. In autumn this movement takes place in early August to mid-October with the peak in late September-early October.
The return movement is in March-May, peaking in late March. Small numbers of birds also use the Sicily-Cap Bon route. Occasionally seen north of breeding range in Continental Europe, reaching the Netherlands and records are now annual or almost so in Sweden and Finland and a very rare vagrant to Norway. There is a single British record from the Isles of Scilly when one toured the islands for a few days in October 1999.
Pectoralis and beaudouini have been split from this species as Black-breasted Snake Eagle and Beaudouin's Snake Eagle.
In Eurasia prefers warm and dry areas where reptile prey is most abundant. Often in hilly country with woodland or scattered trees, heathlands and maquis, desert edges and rocky terrain. Nests in trees. In Africa a bird of open plains and lightly wooded country.
The diet consists mostly of snakes, but will also take other reptiles and small mammals.
A single egg is laid.
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