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eBird: Sensitive Species

By eBird India November 18, 2018
Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps

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 (

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

The first installment of sensitive species was put into effect in October 2017. In November 2018, eBird has further updated the sensitive species with two major updates to its system. 

  • Sensitive species can be restricted to certain Indian states where the threat is significant. 
  • Sensitive species can be restricted to records from a defined date range (e.g. breeding season)

For India, this is the first time that eBird-India has invited proposals from the general public for sensitive species and a five member Sensitive Species Committee evaluated their proposals. The final recommendation from the committee was put forward to eBird Central which has been implemented now.

Here are the newly added sensitive species relevant for India, with their IUCN status, the region in which they have been marked sensitive and the date range for which they are marked sensitive.

Sarus Crane Antigone antigone
IUCN status: Vulnerable
Region: Chhattisgarh
Date Range: Throughout the year

Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius
IUCN status: Critically Endangered
Region: Gujarat and Rajasthan
Date Range: 1 November – 31 March

Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis
IUCN status: Vulnerable
Region: All India
Date Range: 01 February to 31 July

Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda
IUCN status: Endangered
Region: All India
Date Range: 01 February to 30 June

Rock Eagle Owl (Indian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis
IUCN status: Least Concern
Region: All India
Date Range: Throughout the year

Great Hornbill (Great Pied Hornbill) Buceros bicornis
IUCN status: Near-threatened
Region: Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra
Date Range: Throughout the year

Sensitive Species from October 2017, which continue to be in force for all of India, all year round, are below.

See the full global list here.

Also: Guidelines for not publicising certain bird observations