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We present an investigation of optically active near-surface defects in sputtered Al-doped ZnO films using scanning tunneling microscope cathodoluminescence (STM-CL). STM-CL maps suggest that the optically active sites are distributed randomly across the surface and do not correlate with the granular topography. In stark contrast to photoluminescence results, STM-CL spectra show a series of sharp, discrete emissions that characterize the dominant optically active defect, which we propose is an oxygen vacancy. Our results highlight the ability of STM-CL to spectrally fingerprint individual defects and contribute to understanding the optical properties of near-surface defects in an important transparent conductor.