Whilst birding the An Namas area of the Asir mountians 150 km north of Abha we came across two Little Owl Athene noctua. This was a new species for me in the Kingdom and both birds were found sitting on dry stone-walls where one bird entered when disturbed. The second bird did not allow close approach and disappeared as we were climbing down a steep incline to get better views of it.
The species is not mapped as occurring in the area of Saudi Arabia in the field guide to the region so was a bit of a surprise, with the dark colour of the birds making them likely to be Athene noctua saharae. Two subspecies of Little Owl occur in Saudi Arabia with Athene noctua saharae that occurs from northern and central Sahara Desert south to the African countries of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan, and east discontinuously into Arabian Peninsula occurring in the Abha area north to central Saudi Arabia.
Its range overlaps with race Athene noctua lilith that occurs from Cyprus and inland Middle East from southeast Turkey south to Saudi Arabia where it occurs in central Saudi Arabia. The overlap occurs in central Saudi Arabia at least, with Lilith occurring north to the boarders of Jordon, Iraq and Kuwait in the Kingdom.