Owl Ethics

A lot gets made over when and how to report the sighting of an Owl.  In one camp you have the people who say you should never report and Owl sighting because humans are inherently evil and only mean to do the bird harm.  In the other camp there are those (including myself) who feel that every bird should be reported.  That leaves a lot of confused birders in the middle.

I believe if you are unsure, use your best judgement.  An Owl for example, in Central Park may not be a good one to report the exact location of.  Simply because it won’t take long for hundreds of people to gather under the tree, making a lot of noise and generally disturbing a sleeping bird (Do you like people keeping you up when you sleep?).  While a bird in a large agricultural area, likely won’t have more than a few people gawking at it and hundreds of acres to hide from you.

In the NYC area, people really get their knickers in a bunch over Long-Eared Owls.  Not only are the difficult to find, but the tend to roost communally, meaning you can find quite a few in one spot.  Because these birds are in high demand for photographers and people in NYC are known for their politeness, there have been many horror stories of photographers chasing these Owls all over the place.  This has cause most people to stop reporting Owls all together and the few newbies who do on the NYC list-servs get scolded and yelled at and I notice many never post again (smooth guys, smooth).

If you feel the bird is in danger by reporting it, don’t.  Also generally don’t give the locations of nesting birds, where human disturbance can have a direct and detrimental effect.  Wintering birds, roosting birds are OK in my opinion to report, because they can always find another tree to roost in and birds in winter wander, so they can always find a quieter spot.  But by using some common sense, everyone of every birding level can enjoy these highly sought after birds.


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