News & Features

eBird: Sensitive Species

Great Indian Bustard, photo: Subhajit Chaudhuri/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab

Open-access data can be a risk for birds that are targeted for exploitation—either through capture, killing, or significant disturbance. eBird has recently been altered to protect sensitive species at risk and for this, eBird data output is restricted in some ways to protect these particular birds, while allowing important data to continue to come into eBird.

With the dangers of targeted hunting or illegal trade in mind, eBird has developed a system to allow Sensitive Species to continue to be reported by eBirders worldwide without fear of harming these imperiled species. Many responsible eBirders intentionally misplot checklists or use overly broad-scale locations for at-risk species, which does not serve science or conservation. This development allows eBirders to submit specific location data for at-risk species in a way that supports groups working to understand and protect sensitive species, without risk of causing the harm to the birds.

Species which are treated as “Sensitive” on eBird adhere to the following criteria:

  • Sensitive Species are formally recommended by a partner or published source, and rationale for the listing is stored at eBird.
  • Sensitive Species in eBird are those for which demonstrable harm could occur from public display of site-level records, including (but not limited to): 1) targeted capture for the cage bird trade; 2) targeted hunting; 3) targeted disturbance of nests, roosts, or individual birds from birdwatchers or photographers. Species that are rare but are not under pressure from targeted human exploitation or disturbance generally are not considered Sensitive.
  • In most, but not all, cases, a Sensitive Species has formal listing as an Endangered or Threatened species either on a local priority list or by the IUCN (http://www.iucnredlist.org/).

Species that are treated as “Sensitive” have a customized display in eBird, where they are:

  • Hidden from checklist views, except to observers on the checklist
  • Hidden from all site-level output (e.g., Hotspot Explorer, bar charts for hotspots)
  • Shown only at grid-cell level (400 kmaccuracy) on eBird species maps
  • Shown at region-level output (e.g., Region Explorer, Illustrated Checklists) with checklist details (date, location, observer, checklist link) omitted
  • Included in listing totals (e.g., Top 100), but never shown as “most recent addition”
  • Shown in Media Search with checklist details (date, location, observer, checklist link) omitted and only for regions larger than a hotspot
  • Specifically marked as Sensitive wherever the species name is displayed in output and location-level data has been removed, such as on the Region Explorer or Illustrated Checklist pages

As of October 2017, Sensitive Species are implemented primarily at the global scale. In the future, regional and seasonal treatments will be added as needed.

For India, the species that are marked as “Sensitive” and thus affected by this development, are:

See full global list here.

Also:

Guidelines for not publicising certain bird observations