WARNING: Long email on a Monday morning after a holiday weekend, folks.  Hang in there.


Thanks for sharing that eBird link to the sensitive species list, Tommy.  It’s gives good additional info on how the different groups were lumped.  And yes, great discussion.  I just wanted to chime in to provide a bit more info, as I was a Missouri contact for eBird on this matter via email correspondence.


eBird is growing at an exponential rate, and given their ability to (until recently) give site-specific information on all bird species (across a range of statuses from imperiled to sensitive to common), many people across the world were learning that they could abuse this privilege in countries where many birds are exploited through illegal poaching or capture for the pet trade and other uses. While poaching and the pet trade are not as dire conservation threats in the U.S. compared to other countries, it still occurs; eBird had to consider regional populations that occur in the U.S. in addition to highly-poached areas of the world.


I totally understand that it’s an inconvenience not to be able to see site-specific information on a handful of species close to home (especially knowing that MOBIRDers mean no harm), but because eBird is growing larger and larger and becoming the go-to site for birders across the world, it’s their responsibility to come up with a way to protect many species that are in danger of human impacts.  eBird obviously feels this responsibility too, hence this move to hide “sensitive species”.  Before this move, eBird was providing a crowd-sourced, real-time roadmap to all species’ occurrences for well-meaning birders and nature enthusiasts, but also for poachers and bad apples.


eBird reached out to state and regional bird contacts in the U.S. since August to solicit thoughts on a draft sensitive species list that, no doubt, took them months and months to compile with the help of other global bird researchers and many data.  I did not suggest that eBird hide any sensitive species from view that occur in Missouri. 


A few thoughts from eBird on that matter from an email sent to me:

“This list is the result of feedback from a large number of respondents, cross-referencing with threatened/endangered lists (e.g., IUCN), and consideration of the specific risks of exposing site-level data publicly for each of these species. All species on the list are listed with a rationale for why they are being treated as Sensitive. Most species are from Southeast Asia, where the bird trade issue is out of control and a major conservation threat.”


Another correspondence with eBird on the sensitive species list:
“Illegal bird hunting and capture for the caged-bird trade are not nearly as serious in the USA as they are elsewhere in the world. Still, we know of some cases in the United States (Painted Buntings in Florida, targeted hunting of Whooping Cranes along their migration route, etc.). Other species may also deserve Sensitive Species protections as well. Thanks in advance for thinking carefully about the tradeoffs between showing/hiding species in eBird and helping to compile a list of the species that need these protections.

Many of eBird's most popular features -- species range maps, eBird Alerts, and checklist views -- are founded on the philosophy of open sharing of bird sightings. eBird best practices promote short, site-specific lists, and many users do their best to submit information in this way. The resulting data make eBird a wealth of site-specific information on bird occurrence throughout the year and around the world.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where wildlife is too often seen not as a shared natural heritage and source of wonder, but instead as a resource to be exploited. Some species are high-value hunting targets, others are prized for the caged-bird trade, and some (e.g., Helmeted Hornbill of Indonesia) are even prized for their body parts, which are used for ‘artwork’, ‘medicinal purposes’, and more.

The combination of globally rare species that are targeted by sophisticated persecution and eBird's unprecedented access to site-specific information gives us a responsibility to protect reports of certain species. Existing tools to protect Sensitive Species (Hide Checklist and Reviewer tagging as Sensitive Species) have been initial steps in the process to help protect species that are subjected to this kind of human pressure.”

Hope this provides some more insight on the matter – I applaud eBird for this move, though I feel for birders who are interested in various species for the sake of bird knowledge.  Decisions to hide species on a regional scale (Wisconsin Whoopers, for instance) were most likely not taken lightly and were made by regional bird experts who see and have a lot of experience with threats/disturbance to these species in their state/region firsthand.  Honestly, I feel thankful that we live in a place where our “sensitive species” eBird list isn’t tens of species long like some of these other parts of the world.

Sorry for the lengthy email, and I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Sarah Kendrick
MO Dept of Conservation
Birds are awesome.



From: Missouri Wild Bird Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tommy Goodwin
Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2017 2:14 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: FYI ebird policies


This is a good discussion. Below is a link to the full world sensitive species as told by eBird. http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/2879207-sensitive-species-list?b_id=1928


The barred owl is not on this list, but the spotted owl is. The barn owl is on the list, but is only regional. MO is not a sensitive region so they are not affected by the filter in our state. Another example is the Golden Eagle is sensitive only in Israel and Palestian Territory. 


I hope this link is helpful for those of you on question of the new statuses. 


Tommy Goodwin

St Charles


On Nov 26, 2017 1:59 PM, "Jared Gorrell" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I believe it's not Barred Owl but Barn Owl, a rarer species occasionally poached in areas outside of the US.


Jared Gorrell

Sangamon County IL


On Nov 26, 2017 11:18 AM, "Edge Wade" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Weird!  Thanks for sharing this.

It would be very interesting, informative and good public relations for Cornell's eBird gurus to share their reasoning for EACH species listed and for the areas chosen to mask these.

Barred Owl is a curious example for me--what do I not know about Barred Owl ranges/occurrence that would place it on the list?

And Whooping Cranes?  Yes, the Crane foundation is in Wisconsin, but why only there for masking the sightings?

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
[log in to unmask]

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Rogles" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, November 25, 2017 8:25:26 PM
Subject: FYI ebird policies

From a post on the South Dakota bird lists.
Subject: eBird - "Sensitive Species" taxon
Date: Thu Nov 23 2017 9:27 am
From: sd-birds-noreply AT yahoogroups.com

Just curious what people thought of how eBird is now treating "sensitive

species". It must be relatively new, since I do the "explore data" thing on

eBird occasionally. I was interested in seeing if anyone was seeing owls up

at Sax-Zim bog, so checked Northern Hawk Owl, Great Grey Owl, and Boreal

Owl, to see if any sightings have occurred recently. For Boreal Owl, it

still lets you zoom in to an exact location of a sighting. For both Northern

Owl and Great Gray Owl, it now only shows the general area, but not specific

location. They said they're now doing this for "sensitive species", species

potentially susceptible to "capture, targeted killing, or significant

disturbance". It says "While targeted killing and disturbance are risks for

some species, the exploitation of wild birds for the pet trade is the most

significant risk for the majority of species."

Clearly the latter point isn't the threat for Great Gray and Northern Hawk

Owls, so it must be the "significant disturbance" risk. So the most

information you can get is what 20 x 20 km grid cell a bird was seen. It

also says observations of those birds are "Hidden from checklist views,

except to observers on the checklist".  It's interesting what species were

chosen as "sensitive".  There aren't many in the U.S.  Some are kind of

weird (see below how they treat Whooping Crane).

And I guess what I do find somewhat irritating.I can see masking exact

locations for recent sightings. But they mask ALL sightings for a species.

I'm not sure what the point is to mask a 20-year old observation to protect

an individual bird from capture or disturbance. Here's the list of US birds

treated as "sensitive".  There's not many. It is interesting why just those

owls were chosen. Barred I can see, yes, but it seems there's a heavy US

influence on the masking of sightings for Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owl.

They're not exactly rare or anything in Canada, Alaska. Seems like the

blocking of those is probably because of the rarity and uproar they cause

sometimes when sighted in the US.

*       Great Gray Owl

*       Northern Hawk Owl

*       Barred Owl

*       Gyrfalcon

*       Gunnison Sage Grouse

*       Lesser Prairie Chicken

*       Whooping Crane.but ONLY sightings in Wisconsin!  Exact locations are

shown everywhere else, but once you get to the state boundary of Wisconsin,

exact locations aren't shown (again, including all historical sightings as

well as current)

Terry Sohl

American Birding Podcast

--I find this interesting. And hidden from view?

St. Louis

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