12 November 2023

Pallid Scops Owl - Al Uqair

Whilst birding the Al Uqair area 10 November 2023 Phil and walking around the area we saw an illegal mist net and a bird trapped in it and when I looked at the bird through my binoculars, I noticed it was a Scops Owl. We quickly went to try to rescue the owl, although we thought it may be already dead although we found the bird was still alive although very badly entangled. Phil cut the bird free with his knife whilst I held the bird. It was still relatively strong and active and called a few times, so we quickly examined it and took some photos and then moved it well away from the net and released it in a tree. It quickly opened its eyes and jumped onto the ground and ran and hid under some low vegetation. Luckily it looked healthier when we released it than it did in the hand, and I am very confident it will survive. This was a real relief as we thought it was dead when we first saw it. The bird was a Pallid Scops Owl Otus brucei exiguous and this was the first time either Phil or I had seen one so was a very nice surprise. This species is an extremely rare breeding resident and rare winter visitor to Saudi Arabia, although may be more common than thought due to magnificent camouflage. They are regularly recorded during the winter at Yanbu’ and possibly overwinters in Saudi Arabia more widely than is realized. There is a small breeding population in southwestern Saudi Arabia where birds have been heard calling.