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Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Strigiformes
Familia: Strigidae
Subfamilia: Striginae
Genus: Bubo
Species: B. africanus - B. ascalaphus - B. bengalensis - B. blakistoni - B. bubo - B. capensis - B. cinerascens - B. coromandus - B. lacteus - B. leucostictus - B. magellanicus - B. nipalensis - B. philippensis - B. poensis - B. scandiacus - B. shelleyi - B. sumatranus - B. virginianus - B. vosseleri - B. zeylonensis


Bubo Dumeril, 1805


Zoologie Analytique p.34

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Uhus
English: Horned owls
Español: Búho
Frysk: Oehoes
Magyar: Uhu
Lietuvių: Didieji apuokai
Nederlands: Oehoe

The American (North and South America) horned owls and the Old World eagle-owls make up the genus Bubo, at least as traditionally described. The genus name Bubo is Latin for the Eurasian eagle-owl.

This genus contains 20 species that are found in many parts of the world. Some of the largest living Strigiformes are in Bubo. Traditionally, only owls with ear-tufts were included in this genus, but that is no longer the case.
Eurasian eagle-owl with a rat in its beak

Detail of an eye of an eagle-owl

The genus Bubo was introduced in 1805 by André Duméril for the horned owls.[2] The type species is the Eurasian eagle-owl.[3] The word bubo is Latin for the Eurasian eagle owl and was used as the specific epithet for the species by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.[4]

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2019 found that species in the genera Scotopelia and Ketupa were embedded within the clade containing members of the genus Bubo. Thus, the genus Bubo as currently defined in paraphyletic.[5]

Systematics of which species to include among the horned owls is in an upheaval at present. While Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b sequence data favors the decision by some to regard the snowy owl as an eagle-owl adapted to Arctic conditions, moving it into Bubo,[6] this is not accepted by all authorities, many still preferring Nyctea.[7]

Likewise disagreement exists over the decision by some to move the four fish-owls previously in the genus Ketupa provisionally into Bubo as well,[8] which introduces a good bit of confusion. While the mtDNA cytochrome b data suggests that in this case, to make Bubo monophyletic the Scotopelia fishing owls would also need to be included there. On the other hand, the genus then becomes quite large and ill-defined, and Bubo in the expanded sense seems to consist of two distinct clades. Thus, the fish and fishing owls can alternatively be united in Ketupa if some aberrant eagle-owls – at least the barred, spot-bellied and Usambara eagle-owls, perhaps also Fraser's eagle-owl and maybe others – are moved into that genus too. As some enigmatic eagle-owls remain essentially unstudied and others – e.g. Verreaux's eagle-owl – are of unresolved relationships, more research is needed.[6]

The genus contains 20 extant species:[9]

Snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus
Great horned owl, Bubo virginianus
Lesser horned owl, Bubo magellanicus
Eurasian eagle-owl, Bubo bubo
Indian eagle-owl, Bubo bengalensis
Pharaoh eagle-owl, Bubo ascalaphus
Cape eagle-owl, Bubo capensis
Arabian eagle-owl, Bubo milesi
Greyish eagle-owl, Bubo cinerascens
Spotted eagle-owl, Bubo africanus
Fraser's eagle-owl, Bubo poensis
Usambara eagle-owl, Bubo vosseleri
Verreaux's eagle-owl, Bubo lacteus
Shelley's eagle-owl, Bubo shelleyi
Barred eagle-owl, Bubo sumatranus
Spot-bellied eagle-owl, Bubo nipalensis
Dusky eagle-owl, Bubo coromandus
Akun eagle-owl, Bubo leucostictus
Philippine eagle-owl, Bubo philippensis
Blakiston's fish owl, Bubo blakistoni

Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo)

Sometimes included in this genus:

Brown fish owl, Ketupa zeylonensis
Tawny fish owl, Ketupa flavipes
Buffy fish owl, Ketupa ketupu
Pel's fishing owl, Scotopelia peli
Rufous fishing owl, Scotopelia ussheri
Vermiculated fishing owl, Scotopelia bouvieri

Fossil record

Named and distinct Bubo species are:

Bubo florianae (Late Miocene[verification needed] of Csákvár, Hungary, tentatively placed here)
Bubo leakeyae (Early Pleistocene of Tanzania)
Bubo binagadensis (Late Pleistocene of Binagady, Azerbaijan)
Bubo osvaldoi (Pleistocene of Cuba)[10]

Some notable undescribed fossils of prehistoric horned owls, usually quite fragmentary remains, have also been recorded:

Bubo sp. (Late Pliocene of Senèze, France)[11]
Bubo sp. (Late Pliocene of Rębielice Królewskie, Poland; tentatively placed here)[12]
Bubo sp. (Late Pleistocene of San Josecito Cavern, Mexico)[13]

Specimen UMMP V31030, a Late Pliocene coracoid from the Rexroad Formation of Kansas (USA), cannot be conclusively assigned to either Bubo or Strix. This fossil is from a taxon similar in size to the great horned owl (B. virginianus) or the great grey owl (S. nebulosa).[14]

The Sinclair owl (Bubo sinclairi) from Late Pleistocene California may have been a paleosubspecies of the great horned owl,[15] while the roughly contemporary Bubo insularis of the central and eastern Mediterranean has been considered a junior synonym of a brown fish owl paleosubspecies.[16] Additional paleosubspecies are discussed on the appropriate species page.

Several presumed Bubo fossils have turned out to be from different birds. The Late Eocene/Early Oligocene eared owls "Bubo" incertus and "Bubo" arvernensis are now placed in the fossil barn-owl genera Nocturnavis and Necrobyas, respectively. "Bubo" leptosteus is now recognized as primitive owl in the genus Minerva (formerly Protostrix). "Bubo" poirreiri from the Late Oligocene or Early Miocene of Saint-Gérard-le-Puy in France, is now placed in Mioglaux.

On the other hand, the supposed fossil heron "Ardea" lignitum from the Late Pliocene of Plaue-Rippersroda (Germany) was apparently an owl and close to Bubo or more probably actually belongs here. Given its age – about 2 million years ago or so – it is usually included in the Eurasian eagle-owl today.[17]
Interactions with humans

Because of their nocturnal habits, most owls do not directly interact with humans. However, in 2015, an eagle owl in Purmerend, Netherlands, attacked some fifty humans before it was caught by a hired falconer.[18]

Possibly a junior synonym of Ketupa, if that is a valid genus: Pavia (1999), Mlíkovský (2002, 2003).
Duméril, A. M. Constant (1805). Zoologie analytique : ou, Méthode naturelle de classification des animaux; endue plus facile a l'aide de tableaux synoptiques (in French). Paris: Allais. p. 34. The book bears the date of 1806 on the title page but was actually published in 1805. See: Gregory, Steven M.S. (2010). "The two 'editions' of Duméril's Zoologie analytique, and the potential confusion caused by Froriep's translation Analytische Zoologie" (PDF). Zoological Bibliography. 1 (1): 6–8.
Peters, James Lee, ed. (1940). Check-List of Birds of the World. Volume 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 110.
Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 179. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
Salter, J.F.; Oliveros, C.H.; Hosner, P.A.; Manthey, J.D.; Robbins, M.B.; Moyle, R.G.; Brumfield, R.T.; Faircloth, B.C. (2019). "Extensive paraphyly in the typical owl family (Strigidae)". The Auk. 137 (ukz070). doi:10.1093/auk/ukz070.
Olsen et al. (2002)
Potapov, Eugene; Sale, Richard (2013). The Snowy Owl. T&APoyser. ISBN 978-0-7136-8817-7.
König et al. (1999)
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2021). "Owls". IOC World Bird List Version 11.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
Arredondo, O; Olson, SL. "A New Species of Owl of the Genus Bubo from the Pleistocene of Cuba (Aves: Strigiformes)" (PDF). Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 107 (3): 436–444. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
Lambrecht (1933): p. 616
Mlíkovský (2002)
A single bone of a large horned owl distinct from B. virginianus: Steadman et al. (1994)
Feduccia (1970)
Howard (1947)
Mlíkovský (2002, 2003)
Olson (1985): p. 167, Mlíkovský (2002)

""Horror owl" caught in Purmerend; had attacked 50 people". NL Times. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2021.

Feduccia, J. Alan; Ford, Norman L. (1970). "Some birds of prey from the Upper Pliocene of Kansas" (PDF). Auk. 87 (4): 795–797. doi:10.2307/4083714. JSTOR 4083714.
Howard, Hildegarde (1947). "A preliminary survey of trends in avian evolution from Pleistocene to recent time" (PDF). Condor. 49 (1): 10–13. doi:10.2307/1364422. JSTOR 1364422.
König, Claus; Weick, Friedhelm & Becking, Jan-Hendrik (1999): Owls: A guide to the owls of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN 978-0-300-07920-3
Lambrecht, Kálmán (1933): Handbuch der Palaeornithologie [Handbook of Paleornithology]. Gebrüder Bornträger, Berlin. [in German]
Mlíkovský, Jiří (2002): Cenozoic Birds of the World, Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press, Prague.
Mlíkovský, Jiří (2003). "Brown Fish Owl (Bubo zeylonensis) in Europe: past distribution and taxonomic status" (PDF). Buteo. 13: 61–65. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
Olsen, Jery; Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Heidi; Trost, Susan (2002). "A new Ninox owl from Sumba, Indonesia" (PDF). Emu. 102 (3): 223–231. doi:10.1071/MU02006. S2CID 86526031. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
Olson, Storrs L. (1985): The fossil record of birds. In: Farner, D.S.; King, J.R. & Parkes, Kenneth C. (eds.): Avian Biology 8: 79–238. Academic Press, New York.
Pavia, Marco (1999). "Un cranio di Bubo insularis Mourer-Chauviré & Weesie, 1986 (Aves, Strigidae) nelle brecce ossifere del Pleistocene di Capo Figari (Sardegna, Italia)" [A cranium of B. insularis from the Pleistocene ossiferous breccia of Cape Figari (Sardinia, Italy)] (PDF). Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, Classe di Scienze Fisiche, Matematiche e Naturali (in Italian and English). 133: 1–10.
Steadman, David William; Arroyo-Cabrales, Joaquin; Johnson, Eileen; Guzman, A. Fabiola (1994). "New Information on the Late Pleistocene Birds from San Josecito Cave, Nuevo León, Mexico" (PDF). Condor. 96 (3): 577–589. doi:10.2307/1369460. JSTOR 1369460.

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