Obscuring locations of Owl species

Other websites and groups (eBird, Facebook groups, etc) have been quite careful about putting the exact location of many owl species publically accessible due to the threat imposed by humans. However, I have noticed that iNat has many species typically with censored locations set as “open” for geoprivacy in many places, including the US.

I suggest changing the geoprivacy to “obscured” for the following species (US species only):
Great Gray Owl
Snowy Owl
Long-eared Owl (many states have this one obscured but should probably be on a national level)
and Northern Hawk Owl

I created some flags for the above species but wanted to create some discussion here to see what others thought.


i think the issue with owls or some other birds is disclosing where they’re nesting or roosting (not necessarily just that they have been sighted somewhere), right? if so, it might be nice to have some sort of flag or annotation that can automatically trigger obscuration based on nesting, etc. in the meantime, i think educating people about species that require a little extra care when posting observations, even if they are not otherwise threatened, is the best way to go.


There is a secondary issue of baiting for photography which endangers the animals both in terms of reliance on humans for food and bringing them closer to roadsides etc. It is not just nest disturbance that is the issue.


eBird doesn’t obscure Snowy Owl, and only obscures Long-eared Owl in New York and Wisconsin. Their sensitive species page states that Long-eared Owls are vulnerable to human disturbance at daytime roosts in some areas of the northeastern US, but that this is not an issue in the western US. I don’t see any reason why iNaturalist should obscure more aggressively than the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Great Gray Owl and Northern Hawk Owl are both obscured by eBird globally. Both species are listed as IUCN status Least Threatened, so it seems the concern is more for individuals than for the species as a whole. Leaving these two species unobscured increases the risk of human disturbance, but also creates opportunities to get more people involved with nature. These are both very charismatic species that can inspire a change of attitude for people who usually ignore birds or consider them nuisances. That may be worth the risk in areas with a healthy population of these owls.