Does 'behaviour' count as an observation? Why or why not?

I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time here yet, but so far I’m a little surprised that all the observations that I see submitted document species identification, but there doesn’t seem to be any that I’ve seen yet that focus on behavioural data.

Did I miss something about why this is? Forgive my naiivety please, but is the purpose of iNat then more focused on species counts and location data than anything else?


I’m guess behavioral data can be inferred from the photo and/or any observation fields. iNat is simply a platform where users upload photos/audio of the wildlife they observed, and they and/or other users provide an identification. The ideal result of this is the user becoming more interested in the natural world around them. The species counts and location data comes as a consequence of many users from all over the world with various expertises and interests.


I’d say the answer to your question is mostly yes. But also to teach non-academics about the nature around them, and at the very least give people species names to go on a reading rabbithole about where they may not have heard said name before.
One could still use the website for behavioral information, but it may be less geared towards that. For example, if someone saw an owl eating a meal, they could write “eating a mouse” in the observation description so that there’s an account of what it’s up to in this location. But the website would not automatically quantify the animal’s diet for behavioral data the way that it automatically plots map points for species range data.


Check the “rabbit hole” of projects.
Most of my photos of predators and prey get picked by various projects.
Perhaps start a new project or two?


An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.” from the guidelines. Behaviour can’t be something separate from the object, but there’re observation fields, projects or just descriptions you can search to document it.
Purpose of iNat is connect people with nature, not species count and not behaviour, but also all at once.


Every observation can document behavior - accidentally or on purpose.
Some of my obs documenting behavior:

Another user has observed the rarely seen courtship and copulation of Diplazontinae wasps.

These behaviours are also explained, as far as possible, in description/comments and using observation fields in the respective observations so projects can pick them up automatically. But there’s that problem with observation fields that there’re lots of duplicates (or near duplicates) which also demonstrates the difficulties of generating structured data for complex phenomena - there’re many ways to describe the phenomena. But it’s also because there’s no curation for observation fields, again though that’s mostly because they are hard to curate.

Complex behavior is more difficult to study and meaningful results often require carefully thought out observation or experimentation methods. Still, many observations capture some behavior and it’s up to whoever is interested to interpret what is captured.


It’s not intuitive (or easy?) to display observations that document various behaviors (e.g. mating).

Could someone describe how to go about doing that?

I know there’s more than one way–and none of them seem to be ideal. Other than being not intuitive (or easy) to display those observations, but observation fields themselves can be transitory. For example, someone has created the observation field “Behavior: mating” for a Project. And I can spend a lot of time selecting that observation field for observations and then someone can come along and delete the observation field entirely.

For displaying observations (as a grid) with a particular observation field, one has to identify the URL for the field–not an easy task–and paste that in the URL: (but this one is restricted to “bugs”).

The various types of annotations are described in this post.

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As an aside - there are these fields that have been created - note I only used the 2 English spellings for my search. As well, there can be fields created in any language and/or with just the behaviour written without “behaviour” in the description such as eating, mating, sleeping, preying.✓&q=behavior&commit=Search✓&q=behaviour&commit=Search


I think to supply clear evidence of behavior and really dive into including behaviors as observation fields, inat would really need to open up to video submissions. limitation to static photographs makes it extra challenging if not impossible to submit clear documentation of some behaviors.

behaviors that can be documented via photographs are going to be a subset of the possibilities. audio submissions are going to be even more limiting WRT behaviors.

it’d take a lot more server capacity to be able to support video submissions and while I’d love a native way to handle it, I understand why it isn’t done. Until then, when I do get a video observation, it goes onto another hosting site and a link to it goes in the notes section. and a screenshot from said video becomes the main image for the observation.


As others have noted, iNat doesn’t (and can’t realistically) support video at this time. But obs that depict behaviors absolutely do get favorited and tagged – I personally try to highlight them whenever I can manage the (difficult) task of getting picture or audio evidence of behaviors / interactions. The tags aren’t as standardized. As researchers find ways to use these data, it’ll probably motivate folks to make more projects or filters that highlight these data for review/enjoyment.


As others have said, documenting behaviour is difficult, albeit important. This morning, when I let my dog out, I saw two crows chasing a Merlin. I saw the crows, and the Merlin was very small, far away, and I could only recognise it by its call. I have no way of ‘proving’ this, unlike a single observation, and the incident was fleeting. I suppose I could make a note in my journal, but translating that to a formal Observation is difficult. I’ve told people now, though!

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As set up, iNaturalist is very good for using photos for answering questions of what’s where when. As @broacher indicates, it has potential for greater usefulness as well.

I think it would be really cool if there were standardized annotations so that we could tag our photos with animal behaviors, as we now can with categories like tracks, galls, etc. New annotations might include grooming, hunting, feeding (including predation), mating, courtship, caring for young.

Right now we do have projects devoted to certain behaviors, like Pollinator Associations and Mating Behavior projects. But regular annotations could be easier – if we remembered to use them.


it can be annoying to make it, but it does support smaller animated gifs, so when i really feel the need i make and post a gif


Good to know. Thanks!

A possibility? How about a portal that would let you upload short vids and then quickly and easily browse and select key frames of the behaviour (say, max of 10?) that would then be (server side) converted to a postable animated GIF? That way, the video posting isn’t needed, but at the same time, the poster would be told to hang on to the video clip just in case a researcher or a project could use it.

Just thinking outside the dialogue box a bit.

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A few more examples:
Anterhynchium rufipes gathering sand or minerals
A Triggerfish closely inspecting a coral head
A slug’s slime trial indicates its crawling pattern
Chestnut-breasted Munias form flocks and come to feeders


Another workaround might be to make a video, post it on another platform then reference the link in a described observation.
Since iNat is so egalitarian in its reach I’m a little wary of making it more complex, as it may shut out people who have internet access concerns. Video content is the bane of my older computer upstairs -videos take forever to load, but iNat works fine! So do MPG and Bugguide which I use a lot. Both are designed to be relatively simple.


I think to try and integrate behavioural observations better here could greatly accelerate public involvement and overall help develop a deeper understanding of the natural world.

That’s an important objective that has never been so critical, given all the bleak forecasts.

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I don’t disagree. It might be a balance, though. Perhaps you could make it a ‘feature request’, and bring it up with folks who know more about this stuff than me.

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maybe something like that could be implemented in a way that would be easy for users. but the servers here already get put under a bit of strain during events like the city nature challenge, and they have to temporarily limit certain things during those times to keep server availability as good as possible.

so in addition to the programming that would be required to make something like that (no small feat in itself), it would still put notable demands on the server side to process that stuff. it’s a possibility, I suppose, but probably a pretty remote one.

I’m finally happy to have a respectable way to upload audio observations fairly easily.