Obfuscated Locations

I was discussion on a Facebook page about birds about locations of a couple of observations of mine that are sometimes obfuscated and sometimes not. One is for this Northern Harrier observation. On the discussion there it was asserted that northern harriers are not rare in Texas and that the categorization as such is probably inappropriate. What’s the procedure for making this determination? Is there something else specific to this observation that makes it be obscured? Note this is not a request to have it unobscured. I don’t really care about that. I mostly would like to know how this works. If the categorization is incorrect for a species, how does that get corrected? I don’t know enough about northern harriers to know if they should be given special treatment or not. But the conversation on the FB site seems to indicate they are common, so the treatment is inappropriate.

If you click on “Details” under the map it will tell you why the observation is obscured. Sometimes it is automated based on the conservation status, sometimes it is just because the poster decided to obscure the observation for whatever reason. In this case it is based on the conservation status (according to NatureServe the breeding population is imperiled in Texas). That doesn’t mean they need to be obscured though; I’m guessing most observations in Texas are of migrants or wintering birds, and the breeding population isn’t particularly threatened by targeted disturbance?

There have been a bunch of cases like this recently where bird species are obscured in a lot of states where they don’t really need to be (for example Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk, some discussion here). You can flag the taxon page if you think a species shouldn’t be obscured in a place where it is, or vice versa. I’m guessing this is affecting other hawk species as well but I don’t have time at the moment to check all their geoprivacy statuses.

There recently was a persistent discussion of a similar nature here:


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Thanks for the prompt reply. Knowing the status comes from NatureServe is a good data point. Now I just need to figure out how to use their website.

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I’m not sure what the history is specifically with these bird statuses.

This thread could be related?



It’s not the NatureServe statuses specifically that are relevant, it’s how curators choose to act on them. If a breeding population in a state is vulnerable, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all individuals of that species in the state should be considered sensitive for iNat’s purposes.

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I made a flag for discussing Northern Harrier specifically: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/514775


I was just reading a very disturbing article on Mongabay about the herp trade – that many newly-described species appear in the trade within a year of being described; presumably, collectors monitor the herp journals for type localities. Given that a newly-described species in this day and age is probably rare or narrowly endemic (or it would have been described before now), but CITES takes time to assess a species’ abundance before listing it, this is clearly a weak point in conservation. I wonder if obscuring type localities in species descriptions will become necessary, and if so, how will that change the way taxonomy is done?


In a local birding Facebook group, there have been discussions about ignorant or unethical photographers (or drone operators) harassing nesting birds by ignoring any discomfort displayed by the birds, whether knowingly or not. Owls and raptors in particular. The moderator said that any posts with the exact location of a particular owl would be deleted, and on some birding lists they ask people not to post the exact locations so the birds don’t get harassed by the shear volume of people trying to get a look or photograph, or getting too close, even sometimes bypassing signs and fences.


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