The main identifying character of this bird is its dark brown head and chest, to which it owes its name. In flight the dark head contrasts with the underparts and underwings, which are white apart from dark barring on the flight feathers and tail. The upperparts are dark brown, and the eye is yellow. The female is similar to, but larger than the male, and the juvenile is rufous.
Habitat and Distribution
It inhabits different habitats, providing it can find open terrain to hunt on, trees to perch and nest in, and sufficient food supply. This includes semi-arid or even desert areas. This species can be found throughout southern Africa from Ethiopia and Sudan in the north to South Africa in the south and Angola in the southwest. Due to its wide distribution the species is not endangered.
As its name indicates, this bird feeds mostly on snakes, but will also prey on lizards, small mammals and frogs.
The female will lay only one egg per clutch, which is incubated for 50 days. The chick leaves the nest after 3 months.
Calls and Songs
The call is a whistled kwo kwo kwo kweeoo.