A thickset medium-sized brown raptor of forested habitats. When perched, readily identified by its bright yellow loral skin, white-speckled undersides, and loose black-and-white crest. On adults in flight, note the bold black-and-white stripes on the underwings and tail. Juveniles are whitish overall with a dark mask and blotchy brown-and-white wings. As its name indicates, a significant portion of the diet includes snakes, but the species also eats a wide range of other prey, from earthworms to large songbirds.