25 March 2022

Arabian Spotted Eagle Owls – Abha

Whilst in Abha in mid-March, Phil Roberts and I managed to see and photograph a couple of Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl. One was perched on some overhead lines and allowed very close views. We got out of the car and moved closer getting to about ten metres of the bird with the owl appearing comfortable with our presence, and stayed on the wires the entire time until we left it in peach in the same location. A different bird was located about twenty kilometres away in the early evening on an exposed rock where after some time it was joined by a second bird. Both birds then proceeded to mate with each other before flying off. Birds are resident near the Red Sea coast north to Jeddah and can be seen in the Tihamah and Asir areas including Najran and Hejaz north to Taif. Other birds have been seen in a wooded wadi eight kilometres east of Wadi Juwwah in April and near Tanoumah at various times of year. It is a rather small eagle-owl with long, erect ear-tufts quite tawny coloured. They use a variety of habitats, from rocky outcrops in desert to woodland with sparse ground cover: particularly favours areas with mosaic of low hills, grassland and scrub; prefers semi-open woodland, and rocky hills with scattered trees and bushes; also found in thorn savanna; avoids dense forest. From sea level up to c. 2100 metres. It has recently been split from African Spotted Eagle Owl and now has an isolated range in South-west Saudi Arabia, South-west Yemen and north-east to southern Oman.