Medium large raptor about 55-75cm in length.
- Dark brown upper parts and head.
- Hooded appearance at rest.
- Pale brown underparts and under wing coverts.
- Appears large-headed and owl-like due to face s hape and position of eyes.
- Shallow dihedral in soaring flight.
- Tail and flight feathers black with broad white stripes.
Southern Asia. Widespread and generally common from northern India south to Sri Lanka east to southern China, Hainan, Taiwan and the southern Ryukyu Islands and south to the Andaman Islands and Malay Peninsula. Also breeds on Palawan, Borneo, Sumatra, Java and many smaller islands.
About 20 subspecies are currently recognised, some of which may be deserving of full species status.Nominate race is found in northern India.
- melanotis in southern India.
- spilogaster in Sri Lanka and davisoni in the Andaman Islands.
- S. c. burmanicus occurs from Burma to central and southern Indochina.
- ricketti in south-east China and northern Indochina.
- rutherfordi on Hainan.
- hoya on Taiwan.
- perplexus in the southern Ryukyu Islands.
- batu on Batu Island and southern Sumatra.
- sipora on the Mentawi Islands and Sipora.
- bido on Java and Bali.
- baweanus on Bawean Island.
- pallidus on Borneo.
- natunensis on Bunguran and Billiton Islands.
- asturinus on Nias.
- abbottii on Simalur.
- palawanensis on Palawan, Balabac and the Calamian Islands.
Forest and forest edge, riverine woodland, farmland and sometimes near villages. Occurs up to 3,000m in the Himalayas.
They specialise in reptiles hunting over woodland for snakes and lizards.