Arabian Eagle-Owl in UAE Image Credit: EWS

Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Wildlife Society in association with World Wide Fund (EWS-WWF) recently discovered the Arabian Eagle Owl, a previously unsighted owl species in the UAE, the society said on Tuesday. The bird is currently inhabiting the Hajar Mountains in the Eastern Region.

The sighting is considered a significant addition to the country’s wildlife as it highlights the need for more indepth research and studies on the UAE’s rich biodiversity.

The new species was discovered during an owl survey conducted by Anthony Stoquert, a scientist from EWS-WWF’s Terrestrial Conservation Programme with the support of Sami Majeed, a Wadi Wurayah National Park ranger from Fujairah Municipality.

Jacky Judas, manager and scientific adviser, Terrestrial Biodiversity, EWS-WWF, said: “This recent finding has been quite exciting for the EWS team, as it is undoubtedly just one of many undiscovered species that call the UAE home. In spite of a hot and arid climate, a wide variety of resilient and fascinating species, thrive in our deserts and mountain areas —not only species resident in the Arabian Peninsula, but also wintering or migrant species on their way between Asia and Africa.”

The rapid pace of development has become a major threat to many of these creatures. Thus, it is crucial— now more than ever— that we ramp up collective efforts to protect and safeguard key habitats and endangered species, all of which constitute the UAE’s rich natural heritage, Judas said.

In 2015, the discovery of a single Omani owl in Wadi Wurayah National Park inspired EWS-WWF to organise a more comprehensive owl survey in the Hajar Mountains of the UAE and Oman.

The project was funded by the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

The goal of this research is to contribute to the creation of a network of protected areas, focusing on biodiversity hotspots, which are areas with the greatest number of species, or that shelter species of higher conservation concerns (rare, threatened or endemic species).

Arabian Eagle Owl

The Arabian Eagle Owl typically inhabits different parts of Dhofar, Oman, but few scattered records also attest its presence in the Hajar Mountains of Oman. It is also found in Yemen and in the Asir Mountains of Saudi Arabia, along the Red Sea coast.

A subspecies of the widespread Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus), which ranges from Kenya, Uganda up to South Africa, and the Arabian Eagle Owl tends to live in open woodland, rocky hillsides with scattered thorny shrubs. Its diet in Africa is composed of large insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles.