Sensitive Species

As the holder of a large amount of bird biodiversity data, BirdLife Australia has a responsibility to ensure that the data it collects, especially sensitive data, is managed appropriately. This means minimising any potential harm to birds by protecting location data for sensitive species from inappropriate use. Birdata complies with BirdLife Australia’s Sensitive Species Bird Data Policy (in preparation).

Why does Birdata need a sensitive species bird data policy?

The management of sensitive data is integral to ethical data management. Biodiversity information, where appropriate, should be freely available to all users, creating an increased awareness of species while benefiting the environment, biodiversity and species management through the ability to improve the decision-making process and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes due to lack of knowledge. However, limitations should be applied to the accessibility of data relating to species which are highly sensitive to harmful human activities. These activities include:

  • Wildlife poaching and international trade
  • Legal and illegal hunters including trophy, recreational, commercial and sport hunters
  • Egg collectors
  • Illegal capture of wild birds for the cage trade and falconry
  • Wildlife enthusiasts exhibiting intrusive behaviour, particularly to territorial species
  • Trespassing/accessing private property or indigenous protected areas without a permit

What are sensitive species?

Sensitive species refers to species which are especially vulnerable to adverse impacts caused by damage, commercial exploitation, collecting or disturbance due to their attractiveness, fragility, conservation status, endemism or rarity within the environment. The accessibility of occurrence data for sensitive species, such as the exact localities of individuals or breeding sites, is a major concern faced by data custodians.

What are the considerations for determining sensitive species/taxa?

At a population level, sensitivity to harm is generally likely to be greater for rare and threatened species, as a relatively high proportion of the whole population is likely to be affected by each event. Rare and threatened species are often of significantly greater interest to the public and ill-intentioned people. Therefore, data on rare and threatened species should generally be afforded higher protection.

Assessment is based on three factors:

  • Risk of harm: An assessment of whether the taxon is subject to direct and indirect harmful human activity. This can be considered at both the population and species levels. For example, colonial ground-nesting birds are likely to be highly sensitive to disturbance at a population level, as entire breeding populations could be affected by a single incident.
  • Impact of harm: An assessment of the sensitivity of the taxon to harmful human activity.
  • Sensitivity of data: An assessment on whether the release of data will increase harm.

How is your data displayed in Birdata?

Your own data, including all records of sensitive species, will be available to you at the highest resolution available (your data downloads, species lists and mapped data). However your data will not be made available to other Birdata users at precise resolution. To general users, your records of sensitive species will be desensitised based on the taxa’s category in the sensitive species list.

Are there different categories for sensitive species listing?

Yes, Birdata is using a system where information is desensitised to several different levels depending on the species’ sensitivity level:

  • Category 1 – No spatial data is provided (very few species fall into this category).
  • Category 2 – The spatial accuracy of records is desensitised to 0.1 degrees
  • Category 3 – The spatial accuracy of records is desensitised to 0.01 degrees
  • Category 4 – The spatial accuracy of records is desensitised to 0.001 degrees

Examples of species/taxa in each category:


Are some species/taxa classed as sensitive just around their breeding sites?

Yes, any of the above categories can be applied to breeding records only for a given taxon, and this function will be applied in a future upgrade to data management in order to minimise the unnecessary quarantining of data.

Please note that all threatened species data will be made available at high precision for conservation applications such as environmental impact assessments and threatened species listing nominations and assessments, and appropriate research applications.


The Tony & Lisette
Lewis Foundation
through a WildlifeLink
grant funded the
Birdata app and
the original Birdata