Changing ID based on lack of evidence

It says: Community taxon Genus Aquila.

But it’s not so much about this case. It’s about the principle. Why suggest a downgrade if you have no evidence that the original ID is wrong!

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That’s exactly my point

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So what? For the website taxon id is still a species id. As was said many times before me added ids are expressions of what people think it is, asking them why did you add those ids you say their view and thoughts are nothing because they change community taxon, while in fact they barely change anything. Your observation is named after species and will be displayed in search for species. And I tend to agree with your id, but photos are too small, so if I would like to add my id I would add a genus one too, if someone else would like to confirm your id no other ids can prevent your observation from getting RG if it matters.


iNaturalist is citizenscience. Uncertainty is part of the game. You can’t have millions of volunteers contributing, demanding science grade levels os certainty. That’s why so many researchers still feel uncomfortable about citizenscience. The feeling of loosing control. You’ll have to choose: or work with few high level data, or huge amounts of data with higher levels of uncertainty. Either way is valid.


Your observation was not downgraded, and it did not have a community ID at all before the other people added their ID.

Now it does have a community ID, and people agree with it! I’d be happy if it was my observation.

edit to illustrate:
– consider this observation of yours:, no communnity input at all, no “community ID”

edit to respond to this:

– and that uncertainty makes itself felt by others backing you up to the level they’re confident. The rest of the way you’re on your own, nothing has changed about that since your initial ID.


As a further example, Mallard is the single most documented research grade species on inat. Yet there is a pending taxa split because scientists still are debating/refining what is the ‘Mallard’ species.

Of the 127000+ RG records, I suspect a small percent definitely show the features to eliminate Mexican or Mottled Duck. Yet the ‘absolute visual’ evidence threshold would require all those records be downgraded to genus Anas despite other data suggesting how unlikely that is

This is true. But in this cases the observer should add some info to the observations, explaining what he saw in the field.


What are they going to split it into now?

I think this points up few areas where iNat’s actual ID process and user guidelines don’t seem to match your assumptions.

  • When an iNat user provides an identification, they’re not actually “suggesting a change of ID”. They’re providing their own ID to the best of their capability based on the evidence available to them (photos, sounds, your observation notes, comments from other users, knowledge of the range and prevalence of similar species). Each ID is independent of any IDs the observer or other users may have provided. This may seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s important because it gives a clear rationale that any iNat user can apply regardless of skill and experience, and because it avoids any need to see divergent IDs as a personal attack.

  • If I’m looking at the right observation, neither of the other two identifiers actually disagreed with your ID. They simply provided a genus-level ID of Aquila not disagreeing with your A. fasciata ID. That means the Observation taxon is at the species level, the Community taxon is at the genus level, and your observation is still listed as needs ID. Maybe another birder with good knowledge of Iberian eagles will come across the observation and concur with your ID. Neither of the genus-level IDs will prevent that.

  • Of course, it’s also possible for another iNat user to explicitly disagree with your ID, and even for them to disagree based on lack of evidence rather than the presence of something that leads them towards a different species-level ID. In this case that means they might choose an ID of Aquila and when asked “Is the evidence provided enough to confirm this is Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)” they would choose “No, but this is a member of Aquila (True Eagles)”. Essentially that equates to someone saying “This observation could be x or y and there’s not enough evidence to distinguish between them with any confidence.” iNat has a detailed blog post on exactly how these “ancestor disagreements” are treated. It’s fine for you to engage with the identifier along the lines of “I know it’s hard to tell from the photo, but through binoculars it was clearly darker and smaller than a Golden Eagle” etc. Whatever they decide, that’s still just their ID and doesn’t invalidate yours, even if it changes the Community ID.

As @tallastro and @schoenitz suggested, it’s probably a good thing to avoid being too concerned about observations that spend a long while as “Needs ID”. There is some significance to achieving Research Grade in terms of observations being shared with GBIF, etc. But there’s nothing to prevent researchers and other iNat users finding observations that don’t (yet) have confirming IDs at species level. Any research project can make its own decisions about data inclusion criteria. And as you may have seen, there are plenty of specialists who are themselves iNat members and pitch in to confirm or question community IDs on existing observations.


Mexican Duck previously considered a Mallard subspecies was carved out as a separate full species.

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I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. BUT in this case, the individual knocking it to genus is doing the larger community a service by making it just a bit more difficult for a poor observation record to be bumped up to research grade. It may sting, but the overarching goal of iNat is to provide a database for scientific research, not merely to catalog our observations and take our word that something is as we say it is.

So leaving it as is when you know it’s a subjective id? Probably poor science, and not prudent.


That is the case, as I understand it, and have experienced. Occasionally a newer user who does not know how iNaturalist community ID works does what happened to you, and it is very frustrating and takes a while to fix.

EDIT: I now read the full thread and find that this appears to have been a case of the OP not understanding that the Genus ID was NOT a disagreement. In which case, all was well:) though it is yet another example where a brief explanation from the person adding the Genus ID is a good idea, to avoid this misunderstanding.

Well, usually I do, but last night I began to wonder. A series of plant observations by the same three people (sock puppets?), every one of them so wrong you wouldn’t believe it – as in several observations of sensitive mimosa, wrongly tagged by the observer as spikemoss! Sometimes two of the “observers” making the same egregious mistake – what are the odds? I seriously wondered if I was dealing with a troll.

Giving consideration to the evidence the observer provides doesn’t mean you have to agree with their conclusions or identifications. :slightly_smiling_face:


I believe a lack of evidence can be enough to knock an observation to a higher taxon level. If it’s contentious because of a lack of evidence in the photograph, or it could be various species based on the evidence of the photo, then knocking it back is totally appropriate. In some cases, context outside of the evidence matters: there’s only one species of that genera present in this locality, so it’s most likely this, etc.

Let us not forget that observations identified only to genus can be RG too. Selecting “no” for “Based on the evidence, can the community taxon be confirmed or improved?” when at genus level sets it to RG. This is perfectly valid too, as are observations that don’t reach RG. You never know what someone will find value in, but accuracy is key- they can’t find it easily if it’s not what they’re looking for.


I still think that the person adding the genus ID is not the one who needs to explain anything. The observer should explain why he’s iding that as A. fasciata. And after all this discussion, he still didn’t.


Because the person is sure that the provided evidence is not enough to confirm the original ID.


I’m yet to be convinced. If it can’t be identified (or has a very low chance or being identified) then shouldn’t it be taken out of the pool to increase the changes of the identifiable observations being identified?

Thing is it’s not harder now, it’s not at genus level, added id was not a disagreement.


I have had a similar situation with one of my photos. I took a photo of a great crested grebe. I’m certain that’s what it was and I think I can see enough in the photo to say that’s what it is. Someone disagreed so identified as birds. I agreed that it may not be possible for someone ho didn’t already know it was a grebe so I rejected the community id and marked the id as “good enough” to make it casual.

I’ve come across lots of observations where it seems impossible for anyone to agree with the id. A recent one showed a bird sat on a buoy. From what I could see on the photo I only concluded that it was a bird due to it being on a buoy, if it were somewhere else it could be a stone or stick. It was identified to species level with a note saying that it had been seen closer. In some of these cases it seems like the photo doesn’t really add any value. I just ignored that observation (I could find it again if I wanted to) but I don’t really feel like that’s the right answer.

I try to avoid uploading things I don’t think will be verifiable but I’ve uploaded some that I’m not certain - for instance this Brown Hare. Should I just mark it as “no evidence” to take it out of the “needs id” pool? That doesn’t seem right to me as if it had no photo it wouldn’t be marked as “no evidence”. There picture does provide evidence, just possibly not enough for someone else to be sure that it is a hare rather than a European rabbit (the only other possibility here).

Edit - I didn’t meant to make this a reply to your post @melodi_96

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