Crested Eagle occurs from Central America south to south central South America, although the range is not continuous. It occurs from northern Guatemala south through southern Belize to northern Honduras (Ellis and Whaley 1981, Howell and Webb 1995, A.O.U. 1998, Jones et al. 2000, Grijalva and Eisermann 2006). There are no specimen records from Nicaragua (Martínez-Sánchez and Will 2010), but there are several sight records from eastern Nicaragua (Martínez-Sánchez 2007). There are no confirmed records for Mexico, but Howell and Webb (1995) suggest that it may occur in southern Chiapas and southern Campeche. Crested Eagle is local in Costa Rica, with recent records from the northern Caribbean slope and the southern Pacific slope (Stiles and Skutch 1989), and along the entire Caribbean slope of Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989); the distribution on the Pacific slope of Panama is discontinuous (Rigdely and Gwynne 1989).
The distribution extends south along the Pacific slope of Colombia to northwestern Ecuador (Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a). Crested Eagle also occurs from eastern Colombia east through Venezuela to the Guianas, and south through Amazonia to Bolivia (Snyder 1966, Hilty and Brown 1986, Tostain et al. 1992, Braun et al. 1997, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a, Hilty 2003, Hennessey et al. 2003, Schulenberg et al. 2007, Ottema et al. 2009). Also occurs in the Atlantic Forest region of eastern Brazil, although greatly diminished in numbers there (Sick 1993).
Crested Eagle is restricted to the lowlands in most of its range (e.g., to 500 m in northern Central America, Howell and Webb 1995; below 600 m in Colombia, Hilty and Brown 1986), but locally occurs higher; there are records up to 1800-2200 m in northwestern Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a), and it occurs, locally, to as high as 1100 m in Peru (Parker and Parker 1982, Schulenberg et al. 2010).