Breeding Biology of the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis Cheela Hoya in Kenting National Park

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    Breeding Biology of the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela hoya in Kenting National Park, Taiwan Ta-Ching Chou, Pei-Fen Lee and Huisheng Chen ABSTRACT  The Crested Serpent Eagle Spilomis cheela is widely distributed in the Oriental region. These snake-eating eagles generally soar above the hill ridges and cry noisily in the low hill country on Taiwan, making them conspicuous, but their nests have rarely been found and described. We located twelve serpent eagle nests between 1995 and 2002 in Kenting National Park, southern Taiwan. All nest trees were standing in the creek valleys. Both evergreen broadleaf and hard-leaf trees were used as nest trees. All nests were built on top of vines, and thus concealed from both researchers and predators alike. Only females were observed to incubate the eggs. Only one egg was laid and one eaglet fledged from each of these nests. The breeding success was 92% for all twelve pairs observed. Two forms of juvenile plumage were observed, dark and light. The plumage of the dark form juveniles was very similar to their parents and is not described in any references. INTRODUCTION  The snake-eating Spilornis serpent eagles are endemic to the Oriental region. Due to their high soaring behaviour and loud vocalization, they are easily located in the wild, but the biology of this genus is poorly studied (Brown & Amadon 1968). Only four individual Crested Serpent Eagle nests were reported in northern Taiwan during the past decade (Lin et al. 1998 ). Knowledge of the breeding biology and habitat requirements of all Spilornis serpent eagles in Asia, necessary for future management and conservation measures, is in essence not available. The Crested Serpent Eagle is the most widely distributed and diverse species of this genus. The Formosan Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela hoya is endemic to the island of Taiwan and the largest subspecies in terms of 557    body size (Brown & Amadon 1968). This eagle often soars above the canopy and cries noisily in the hill country, which makes it conspicuous, but knowledge of its breeding biology and habitat characteristics are lacking. It is listed as valuable and rare by the Council of Agriculture of Taiwan, and is under the protection of the wildlife conservation law . Many researchers have shown that several raptor species select specific sites for the placement of their nests. Newton (1979) pointed out that a lack of nest sites might limit several breeding populations of raptors. Therefore, identification of nesting requirements is one of the key elements of integrated management (Plunkett 1977). Olendorff and Zeedyk (1977) suggested that management agencies should obtain and use current quantitative information on occupied or suitable habitats to full advantage within their respective planning and decision-making frameworks. Three categories have been used to describe the breeding habitat used by birds of prey: 1) nest characteristics (e.g.
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