There are many reasons to withhold information on rare birds. You all should live in England/Scotland where the location of rare breeding birds is closely guarded and rarely publicized lest hordes of people or worse, egg collectors, get wind of the location and disturb the poor birds out of existence. Eggs from one of of the first nests of Ross's Gulls in Hudson Bay were likely collected by an oologist.
Disturbing wintering owls at a roost can lead to dispersal at a critical period of the year. Concentrations of Long-eared Owls usually require dense cover and adjacent foraging fields. Disturbing these birds from favored roosts could force a wintering owl from a site into much less optimum habitat or lead to poorer cover where they could be preyed upon by Great Horned Owls, eagles, or harassed by crows and other insensitive photographers. Most owls sleep during the daytime and when the noise of birders and photographers approaching too close and harassing the owl to open its eyes for a better photo, the bird obviously suffers from not being able to stay as warm as it would when it's all fluffed up and asleep. Since starvation is a factor in the death of many wintering Great Gray and Boreal owls and perhaps other owl species, even one afternoon of disturbed rest or no rest could be the difference between an owl making it or not making it through the next day. Stomping down a path through the snow to get to such roosts is not much different than beating down grass to get to a bird nest in a bush in summer. It provides an easy pathway for a 4-legged predator to approach the roost site.
Whatever happened to the joy of discovering your own birds? Long-eared, Northern-saw-whet, and Short-eared owls likely occur seasonally in almost any Minnesota county and I recall at least one article in the Loon in how to find your own Long-eared Owls. Check out the pine and spruce plantations and stands where you live for these owls or grape vines and dense crabtrees or young pines for Saw-whets and eventually you'll find this rare to uncommon species.
And I'd advise against posting gyrfalcon locations too unless it's a very public and well-watched site like Duluth Harbor. With a black market price of $5,000 to $25,000 on its head by international bird smugglers, gyrs are often sought out for capture. One of the most notorious falcon smugglers known is a graduate student at an Iowa University a day's drive from several know gyr wintering locations. Think his choice of school was just coincidental? I doubt it. Yes most smugglers know where these birds breed and winter but let's not make it any easier for them than it is already. You can google this topic if you want to follow up on some real intrigue. Enough said. Bob Russell, USFWS
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