British Ornithologists' Union

The British Ornithologists' Union (BOU) aims to encourage the study of birds ("ornithology") and around the world, in order to understand their biology and to aid their conservation. The BOU was founded in 1858 by Professor Alfred Newton, Henry Baker Tristram and other scientists.[1] Its quarterly journal, Ibis, has been published continuously since 1859.

British Ornithologists' Union
Formation1858 (1858)
PurposeOrnithological research
Juliet Vickery
Neil Bucknell
Prof Tony Fox
Aarhus University
Helen Baker
Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Key people
Alfred Newton (founder)
Main organ
Council of Trustees

The Records Committee (BOURC) is a committee of the BOU established to maintain the British List, the official list of birds recorded in Great Britain.

BOU is headquartered in Peterborough and is a registered charity in England & Wales[2] and Scotland.[3]

Objectives and activities

  • Publishes Ibis as a leading international journal of ornithological science.
  • Organises a programme of meetings and conferences.
  • Awards grants and bursaries for ornithological research.
  • Encourages liaison between those actively engaged in ornithological research.
  • Provides a representative body of the scientific community able to provide ornithological information and advice to government and other policy makers.
  • Maintains and publishes the official list of birds recorded in Britain – The British List.

Records Committee

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) is the recognised national bird records committee for Britain. It maintains a list of birds of Britain. Its findings are published in Ibis, the house journal of its parent body the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU). From time to time, BOURC re-reviews records which it has previously accepted, to ensure they are acceptable in the light of improved knowledge of the species in question.

The Committee does not assess records of birds from Ireland; that task is carried out by the Irish Rare Birds Committee, which publishes its decisions in Irish Birds. For many years, records of IRBC-assessed rarities were included in the BOURC's reports, but this ceased in 2002, at the request of IRBC.[4]

BOURC is widely recognised as maintaining the most authoritative list of birds of Britain.[5]

BOURC has a chairman, a secretary and a number of voting members. It previously had a taxonomic subcommittee, set up to advise on taxonomic matters, but the disbanding of this subcommittee was announced on 6 November 2015; the BOU now contemplates relying entirely on one of the available global avian taxonomies with a view to adopting a single system for all its activities.[6]

Committee and taxonomic reports

The Committee publishes an annual report in Ibis (the BOU's international journal of avian science). All reports can be accessed via the British List pages of the BOU website.

Previously, the Committee's Taxonomic Sub-committee also published regular reports, also in Ibis, and these too can be accessed via the British List pages of the BOU website.

The Druridge Bay curlew

Following a detailed review by the British Birds Rarities Committee into the controversial identification of a curlew seen at Druridge Bay in Northumberland in 1998, which came to the conclusion that it was, as had been believed by many observers, a first-summer slender-billed curlew, this identification was accepted by BOURC, leading to the addition of this species to the British List.[7] [8]. A subsequent review of the record overturned the original decision Ibis 156 :236-242 [9].

Awards and lectures

The following are awarded:[10]

List of presidents

Honorary members

The following have been elected as honorary overseas members:[12]

See also


  1. Bowdler Sharpe, R (1908). "Alfred Newton". British Birds. 1: 33–9. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  2. Charity Commission. British Ornithologists' Union, registered charity no. 249877.
  3. "British Ornithologists' Union, Registered Charity no. SC044850". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
  4. Rogers, Michael J. and the Rarities Committee (2002) Report on rare birds in Great Britain in 2001 Archived September 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine British Birds 95(10): 476-528
  5. The BOU website Archived March 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine lists the following organisations as having indicated that they regard the decisions on status and taxonomy reached by BOURC as comprising the 'official' British List: British Trust for Ornithology, Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Ornithologists' Club, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and The Wildlife Trusts.
  7. Steele, Jimmy and Didier Vangeluwe (2002) From the Rarities Committee's files: the Slender-billed Curlew at Druridge Bay, Northumberland, in 1998 British Birds 95(6):279-299
  8. "British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee: 29th Report (October 2002)". British Ornithologists' Union. 17 December 2002. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  9. "British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee: 42nd Report (October 2013)". British Ornithologists' Union. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2013-08-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. "The Janet Kear Union Medal". British Ornithologists' Union. 28 May 2019. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2013-08-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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