Members of the genus Bubo are the largest of the owls. Heavily built with powerful talons they are recognisable by their size, their prominent ear-tufts, and their eyes that vary in colour from yellow to brown but are frequently vivid orange. The genus, including the Asian fish owls of the genus Ketupa – now believed to be part of Bubo – comprises of 20 species ranging Eurasia, Indonesia, Africa and the Americas. DNA evidence suggests that the Snowy Owls of Nyctea and the fish owls of Scotopelia are also candidates for inclusion in this genus.
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Bubo vosseleri is distributed throughout the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, having been recorded from both the East and West Usambara Mountains (including Mt Nilo Forest Reserve), Uluguru North Forest Reserve (above Tegetero)6, Mkungwe Forest Reserve (15 km north-east of the Ulugurus and particularly common), Iwonde Forest in Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Kilombero Nature Reserve (Mt Mufu), and Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve (along the Kihanga and Mpimbili rivers and in the Mbawi sector). There are also unconfirmed reports or probable records from three other locations. Records from lowland forest in the Usambaras during October-March suggest that it may be resident there and the total population may thus be higher than the previous estimate of 200-1,000 individuals.