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Horned owl

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Title: Horned owl  
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Subject: Snowy owl, South American great horned owl, Indian eagle-owl, Owl, Horned owls
Collection: Bubo, Owls
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Horned owl

Horned owls and eagle-owls
Temporal range: Late Pliocene to present
Indian eagle-owl, Bubo bengalensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo
Duméril, 1805[1][2]

About one or two dozen, see text


Nyctea Stephens, 1826
Ophthalmomegas Dejaut, 1911[3] and see text

The American (North and South America) horned owls and the Old World eagle-owls make up the genus Bubo, at least as traditionally described. This genus, depending on definition, contains about one or two dozen species of typical owls (family Strigidae) and is 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.


  • Systematics 1
    • Living species 1.1
    • Fossil record 1.2
  • Attacks on humans 2
  • Footnotes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Detail of an eye of an eagle-owl.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) cytochrome b sequence data supports the decision to consider the snowy owl an eagle-owl adapted to Arctic conditions and moving it into Bubo, rendering the monotypic genus Nyctea invalid.[4]

The four fish-owls previously in the genus Ketupa were provisionally moved into Bubo as well.[5] However, 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.[4]

Living species

The following living owls are usually included in Bubo:

The fish owls and fishing owls are:

Fossil record

Named and distinct Bubo species are:

  • Bubo florianae (Late Miocene of Csákvár, Hungary, tentatively placed here)
  • Bubo leakeyae (Early Pleistocene of Tanzania)
  • Bubo binagadensis (Late Pleistocene of Binagady, Azerbaijan)
  • Cuban horned owl, Bubo osvaldoi (Pleistocene of Cuba)[6]

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

  • Bubo sp. (Late Pliocene of Senèze, France)[7]
  • Bubo sp. (Late Pliocene of Rębielice Królewskie, Poland; tentatively placed here)[8]
  • Bubo sp. (Late Pleistocene of San Josecito Cavern, Mexico)[9]

Specimen UMMP V31030, a Late Pliocene coracoid from the Rexroad Formation of Kansas (USA), cannot be conclusively assigned to either the present genus 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).[10]

The Sinclair owl (Bubo sinclairi) from Late Pleistocene California may have been a paleosubspecies of the great horned owl,[11] while the roughly contemporary Bubo insularis of the central and eastern Mediterranean has been considered a junior synonym of a brown fish owl paleosubspecies.[12] 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.[13]

Attacks on humans

In 2015, an eagle owl in Purmerend, Netherlands, attacked some fifty humans before it was caught by a hired falconer.[14]


  1. ^ Melville, RV & JDD Smith, ed. (1987). Official Lists and Indexes of Names and Works in Zoology. ICZN. p. 58. 
  2. ^ Gregory, SSMS (2010). "The two 'editions' of Dumeril's Zoologie analytique, and the potential confusion caused by Froriep's translation Analytische Zoologie.". Zoological Bibliography 1 (1): 6–8. 
  3. ^ Possibly a junior synonym of Ketupa, if that is a valid genus: Pavia (1999), Mlíkovský (2002, 2003).
  4. ^ a b Olsen et al. (2002)
  5. ^ König et al. (1999)
  6. ^ Arredondo, O; Olson, SL. from the Pleistocene of Cuba (Aves: Strigiformes)"Bubo"A New Species of Owl of the Genus (PDF). Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 107 (3): 436–44. Retrieved December 2012. 
  7. ^ Lambrecht (1933): p.616
  8. ^ Mlíkovský (2002)
  9. ^ A single bone of a large horned owl distinct from B. virginianus: Steadman et al. (1994)
  10. ^ Feduccia (1970)
  11. ^ Howard (1947)
  12. ^ Mlíkovský (2002, 2003)
  13. ^ Olson (1985): p.167, Mlíkovský (2002)
  14. ^ Horror Owl: Caught In Purmerend


  • Feduccia, J. Alan; Ford, Norman L. (1970). "Some birds of prey from the Upper Pliocene of Kansas" (PDF).  
  • König, Claus; Weick, Friedhelm & Becking, Jan-Hendrik (1999): Owls: A guide to the owls of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN 0-300-07920-6
  • 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). ) in Europe: past distribution and taxonomic status"Bubo zeylonensis"Brown Fish Owl ( (PDF). Buteo 13: 61–65. 
  • Olsen, Jery; Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Heidi & Trost, Susan (2002). owl from Sumba, Indonesia"Ninox"A new (PDF).  
  • 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). from the Pleistocene ossiferous breccia of Cape Figari (Sardinia, Italy)]B. insularis Mourer-Chauviré & Weesie, 1986 (Aves, Strigidae) nelle brecce ossifere del Pleistocene di Capo Figari (Sardegna, Italia)" [A cranium of Bubo insularis"Un cranio di (PDF). Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, Classe di Scienze fisiche, matematiche e naturali (in Italian with English abstract) 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).  

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