The Short-toed Snake Eagle a medium-sized bird of prey. Adults are 70 cm long with an 200 cm wingspan and weigh 2 kg. They can be recognized in the field by their predominantly white underside, the upper parts being greyish brown. The chin, throat and upper breast are a pale, earthy brown. The tail has 3 or 4 bars. Additional indications are an owl-like rounded head, brightly yellow eyes and lightly barred under wing.
The Short-toed Snake Eagle is an accomplished flyer and spends more time on the wing than do most members of its genus. It favors soaring over hill slopes and hilltops on updraughts, and it does much of its hunting from this position at heights of up to 500 meters. When quartering open country it frequently hovers like a Kestrel. When it soars it does so on flattish wings.