Birds and Birding in India

What is BUBO?!

At yesterday’s webinar about Birds of Assam, I was asked to explain a little bit about the “Bubo” of Bubo Birding!


Eurasian Eagle Owl
Eurasian Eagle Owl © Imran Shah

Of course, Bubo is the genus for Eagle Owls, for which there are 20 species worldwide, and four that occur in India—the familiar Indian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis, Dusky Eagle Owl Bubo coromandus, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl Bubo nipalensis, and the rare Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo which occurs in Ladakh.

Eurasian Eagle Owl in particular is an awe-inspiring bird—one of the largest owls in the world, it’s bulk, striking orange eyes, and prominent feathery ear tufts, make it a distinctive sight. A top predator, it is the highlight of any birding day if you are lucky enough to see one.

BUBO Old School Birding

BUBO originated with a small group of student birders at Bristol University in the early 1990s, who spent their weekends bussing and hitch-hiking to sites such as Chew Valley Lake, and watching our local breeding Peregrine Falcons in between lectures.

After a mad weekend trip to Belgium, together with several stalwarts of the Bristol birding scene, where we saw a fabulous Eurasian Eagle Owl (and found the remains of a Long-eared Owl that it had preyed upon!), Bristol University Birding Organisation was born.

BUBO Listing

BUBO Listing logo

Following lots of pub discussions about listing birds, twitching, and watching birds on local patches together, we recognised that there was nowhere birders could compare their lists with others, and BUBO morphed into BUBO Listing. This was before the days of eBird, and was based on the premise that birders’ lists should be transparent and open to view by anyone—if another birder has a bigger life list than you, you can have a look at what they have seen and when and where, and see what you are missing!

Who ticked me?

Despite eBird and BirdTrack coming along and being great sites for “serious” bird records, BUBO Listing is still going strong and complements these with the fun side of bird recording[1] , e.g. year list challenges with fellow birders for your local patch, lockdown listing, green listing, showing an up to date listing badge on your own blog, seeing what your biggest “blocker” is, what are your easiest target species, which bird families are you missing, and even which birds you’ve seen on television!

The popularity of BUBO Listing led to the now infamous greeting, from a well-known international birder whilst we were watching a Pied Falconet at Nameri in Assam several years ago, of “Ah, Mike, Prince of the Internet”[2]. Clearly BUBO had stuck…

Bubo Birding

Bubo Birding logo

When I decided to start leading and promoting bird and wildlife tours in India, it was therefore natural that this should be a BUBO enterprise, and Bubo Birding was launched! Of course, all Bubo Birding species are on BUBO Listing, and all sightings on eBird!

  1. Remember though, it’s “Just a Bird“—BUBO Listing is indebted to Gyr Crakes for graphics and much silliness↩︎
  2. Possibly some artistic license taken with the commas there!↩︎

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