Birders: how did you start using iNat?

Thanks everyone, this is really helpful! I love hearing about everyone’s stories and experiences.


Not a birder but I also got into iNat after PokemonGo lost my interest!


I used eBird since 2014 when I started seriously birding. I joined iNaturalist a couple of years later. It may have been because a local bird survey was going to try to do a survey in the local parks using iNaturalist.

When the pandemic hit, there was nothing to do except go to the parks in the late spring / early summer in Northeast Ohio. (I am very grateful for our parks.) During that time someone told me that there is an ongoing dragonfly survey for Ohio that uses iNaturalist run by the Ohio Odonata Society. I already had an account that I hadn’t used much. I only have a bridge/point-and-shoot camera. So, good photos of birds are few and far between for me. But, the camera is just right for perched dragonflies and, occasionally, I can get a flight shot.

I looked on the iNaturalist Explore map and tried to find places where people hadn’t looked for dragonflies/damselflies in my area. I also looked for places where people had seen species that I really wanted to see. (That sounds like using the eBird website, right?) I found that it was similar to birding because you have to look for good habitat, you must look for specific habitat if you are searching for a specific species, you must go out then the dragonflies are active (late morning about 50 degrees with sun) and you must learn the habits of the subjects to get a chance at a photo. And, like birding, specific dragonflies/damselflies species are only around at certain times of the year so, you must look for them in their habitat during those weeks/months.

I am very fortunate because there is a field guide put out by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History specific to the counties in Northeast Ohio. A lot of the people that contributed to that guide are local people both professional naturalists and people who have just learned about dragonflies. That guide, and the experienced people in my area and people on iNaturalist really helped me learn about dragonflies and damselflies. That help and encouragement only fueled my desire to go out more. Like birding, you must also learn to identify the different species. But, with the survey going on, there are people in iNaturalist who will very quickly identify something posted. So, I just try to take photos of anything to get it up on the website.

The birding community in Northeast Ohio is a really good one. There are a lot of nice people who not only look for and know about birds but, they know about a lot of other things. A lot of birders look for other things once spring migration has slowed. So, I have been introduced to a lot of things like flies, tiger beetles, fungi, moths… I like that you can post anything alive in iNaturalist.


Too late for your talk, Tony, but a few additional comments. I mostly use eBird for birds, and iNaturalist for other groups, but iNat has some useful features relevant to birding.

It’s great for recording interactions (although it could be even better), so I will often use it to record an insect a bird is eating, or to identify a tree a bird is nesting in, and insert a link to the observation on my eBird list.

It’s also good for discussing difficult or interesting identifications, which isn’t possible on eBird.

eBird does not want records of dead birds, but iNat is a good home for such observations, and can help to document bird-window collisions, roadkill and other sources of mortality.

Finally, most platforms don’t accept observations of captive birds, which are sometimes interesting, so again iNat fills a useful niche there.


I’d love to hear how the talk went.

I began with iNat during the pandemic, and I mostly observed plants I became curious about during my hikes and trail runs.

That spiraled into getting my California Naturalist certification, which …

Spiraled into becoming a birder and joining EBird.

Now I use three platforms — eBird to track trips and my life bird lists, iNaturalist to document birds and other organisms, and Birda for a more social birding experience.

INaturalist and my naturalist certification have brought an added dimension to the bird walks and hikes I co-lead through my Audubon chapter. I defer to our expert leader for the most part on birds (although I’m getting better all the time!) but I’m able to point other interesting things out that birders might be interested in. E.g., noting the presence of certain wildflowers after fires, pointing out buckwheat species that butterflies frequent, etc. It provides greater value for our members about the ecology of an ecosystem.


Used to consider myself a hardcore birder, but ran out of new birds to see in my area and haven’t used eBird as much recently.

I started using iNat because I’ve always been into Lepidoptera in a big way and I found that iNat is where the amateur Lepidopterists are posting their finds. I secondarily started using iNat to track birds, and it gave me a new goal- my ABA lifelist is around 600 species, but my iNat ABA area lifelist is only around 400 species, so I’ve encountered about 200 species of birds that I didn’t record any audio/video/photo of. So now I want to get RG records of those “missing” 200 species, some of which are really common (my current top 2 are GCKI and AMKE, which are abundant in my area but I never recorded or photographed apparently).

I’ve ?tertiarily? started using iNat to learn plants, by obsessively photographing every plant I’ve encountered for a year and submitting them to see what CV/experts think about them.

So I’d say iNat has re-invigorated my stale birding hobby, given me an outlet to do moth IDs that are much more relaxing and easy than the intense genitalia dissection that characterizes the ID work I’m doing on my personal moth material at this point, and also taught me how to do basic plant IDs.

I went out yesterday and was actually excited to find a GCFL to record to tick off my “iNat life list”, when by ABA/eBird standards I’d observed GCFL to death a decade ago. This is going to sound really dumb, but as an avid Pokemon gamer, starting an iNat bird life list has been like re-starting a Pokemon game from scratch with an empty Pokedex and re-experiencing the excitement of finding each species for the first time. I admit I’m a bit of an obsessive “lister”, and iNat has provided a fresh format for listing all the birds that I’d started to ignore after submitting them on 100+ eBird lists, but now with the added difficulty level of obtaining an independently-verifiable record of the birds. Willow Ptarmigan was tough enough to get for my ABA life list… now I need to drive back to Alaska and get a photo/recording of it to get it to RG on iNat. That sounds like a fun trip though, so I’ll probably do it soon.


I have been using eBird since about 2012. I started using iNaturalist to help identify species in other taxa, mostly Odonata and Lepidoptera. I found that iNaturalist is actually helpful for fixing some IDs of birds that went past the eBird reviewers (a longer time ago) or that haven’t been reviewed yet by eBird. So it is sometimes helpful and certainly for other taxa.

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I have been using iNat since the last month only.
I normally seek help from ebird/merlin to identify the birds whose id is not known to me or to observe which species have been sighted in the desired site. I was not interested to prepare and submit checklist of each species although. I still use Merlin regularly. But the necessity increased when I wanted to know the specific Id of species other than Birds. So I relied on google search for such site and got the wonderful site iNAT.
My photos of non-bird organisms as well as my bird photos now end up on here in iNAT.
I still use Merlin for Bird’s id for a parallel check with iNAT, whenever required.

Thanks for opening this great conversation!

I know I’m late to it—I hope your presentation went well!

The topic caught my eye because I was an organizer for our county’s City Nature Nature Challenge this year and being an amateur birder myself who has become fairly connected with our local birding community, I expected some resistance from our devoted eBirders. It turned out that I had seriously underestimated the strength of their devotion to eBird!

I appreciate everyone’s input in this thread, as most of the points mentioned resonate with my thought about the two (and other) citizen science apps. In a nutshell: they each have their respective strengths, different communities/cultures, and different platforms that affect their suitability for individuals based on their needs, willingness to learn a new platform (or interest in learning about about biodiversity in general, vs. focusing on birds), and comfort with the differing community makeups and forms of interaction.

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I’m a life-long birder but also curious about everything else too, it seems. I report birds on iNat occasionally but usually they are window strikes or road kill. eBird doesn’t care about dead birds, and iNat doesn’t care about how many.
But but when iNat carries reports of uncommon or rare birds instead of eBird the data gets lost. Finding data on nesting eagles, common ravens, or common mergansers in NC means looking in three incomplete, incompatible databases (also NestWatch) In in my view, if it isn’t data, it didn’t happen.

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If I thought that way, I wouldn’t have much of a life to look back on. And yes, I am referring specifically to nature encounters.


Yeah, not every memorable nature encounter has to yield a data point of use to science. It’s nice when it does. My personal philosophy towards birding changed when I got a digital camera: if I didn’t get a diagnostic photo, I didn’t see the bird. More of a challenge than a rule which aligns well with iNat. But I still recall some good birds that I didn’t get to photo, yet they’re still part of my collective naturalist experience.


3 posts were merged into an existing topic: iNaturalist vs eBird

I moved multiple posts that were more about whether eBird or iNat were better, which is not the topic of this thread. Please keep posts on topic, and don’t reply to off-topic posts.

Thanks! It went OK, but unfortunately wasn’t too well attended in-person (they were moving from all-online meetings to a hybrid model). I think I was able to explain iNat a bit more and hopefully encourage birders to make observations of non-bird taxa when they’re out in the field.

Thanks so much for everyone’s responses, they were super interesting and helpful!

I’m going to close the thread.