When I visited Wenyu He in Beijing a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a pair of breeding Little Owls (Athene noctua). On a return visit I captured the image below of a young bird. Shi Jin, a regular on Birdforum, posted an image of one of these birds on his excellent China 2010 thread. Richard Klim, always up to date on the latest taxonomic issues, pointed out that north-east China’s subspecies – Athene [noctua] plumipes – has been suggested as a separate species with Swinhoe’s Owlet being the suggested new name (Wink 2011). König & Weick’s “Owls of the World” (2008) mooted it as a potential split back in 2008, saying “Toes more densely covered with plumes rather than bristles. …Perhaps specifically distinct.”
That’s good enough for me…!