Downloads Showing Blank 'common_name' field

When working on downloaded files I notice that the ‘common_name’ field is sometimes blank. For example, the ‘common_name’ field is blank for the following 'scientific_name’s. Each is linked to an observation. In parentheses is the first word in the description i.e. Genus Chlorophyllum for the first on the list. I think this may be the common denominator … that the name starts with Genus, Subtribe, Subgenus etc. as opposed to the 2nd section below starting with Accipiters:

There are some taxons, not at the species level, that do have a ‘common_name’. Here’s a list of a few showing ‘scientific_name’ | ‘common_name’ with a link to an observation. None of these names start with Genus or Subtribe etc. These descriptions for the observations below are consistently at the end of the name in parentheses i.e. Accipiters (Genus Accipiter):

Is it possible for downloaded observations that currently have a blank ‘common_name’ to have this field populated?

Currently I have a lookup table for these 'scientific_name’s in order to fill in the ‘common_name’ field.

Here’s a view of the downloaded data for the two columns mentioned:

Thanks in advance.

I just looked at Egretta to double check, but it looks like that’s because these don’t have an English ‘common name’ just a scientific name.

Are you wanting the common name to automatically be filled with something like:
[rank] [scientific name]
or wanting a common name that you know (like `medium-sized herons’ for Egretta) that isn’t on the taxon page?

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@alexis18 Thanks for the follow up. Anything that fits and is consistent. Not having a blank would be the aim. Like the four examples in the screenshot where the ‘common_name’ is not blank:

  • Aves has Birds
  • Buteo has Buteos
  • Anas has Mallards, Pintails, and Allies
  • Accipiter has Accipiters

A consistent non-blank would be great. Showing what is actually displayed on the screen would be great:

  • Egretta could show Genus Egretta under ‘common_name’
  • Platytipula could show Subtribe Platytipula

Thanks again.

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Hm, if it was the first one, you can add a common name on the taxon page under ‘taxonomy’ all the way at the bottom under names:

But this sounds more like a feature request than a bug report.

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i don’t think i would add something like “Genus Egretta” as a common name for Egretta. i don’t think i would even add “Egretta” as a common name for Egretta, since i’ve ever heard anybody group them in that way except in a scientific name context.

i wouldn’t be opposed to “Zinnia” as a common name for Zinnia or “Crocus” as a common name for Crocus, since that’s the way laypeople refer to them, though. at the end of the day, i still wouldn’t try to force a common name for taxon that doesn’t have a common name.

in general, i don’t think this is thread is properly classified. it’s definitely not a bug. maybe a feature request. but i think your request might be better addressed as a post in this thread:, not necessarily as a separate thread.

in the meantime, you can accomplish what you’re looking for by using a simple formula in a spreadsheet or database, i think. in Excel, you could do something like =IF(common_name="",rank&" " scientific_name,common_name),


I’m sure there are a lot of ‘scientific_names’ with blank ‘common_names’. Why would an end user choose what appears here? This should be something a curator or some other person that works for iNat should address. Or maybe a coder could look into this to see why the ‘common_name’ field is blank and correct this oversight. I think consistency is key …

Thanks again.

Yes so sorry if I came off as suggesting that. I meant this as the answer to

(Medium-sized herons is not a commonly used common name for Egretta, so I wouldn’t add it personally)

The common name is blank because there is no common name used for that scientific name, so it is consistent, it’s just consistently blank when that is the case.


I understand. But why does Accipiters have a ‘common_name’ where Accipiters is at the Genus level and why does Egretta have a blank ‘common_name’ where Egretta is also at the Genus level.

This is the inconsistent part I’d like to see made right.

@alexis18 Let me know if you’re able to look into this. Thanks …

The difference between Accipter and Egretta is that for the genus Accipter, ‘Accipters’ is the common name, but for the genus Egretta, there is no common name.

It’s tricky because sometimes the common name IS the scientific name, and other times it is not. From your list again, Anas is also genus, and its common name is ‘Mallards, Pintails, and Allies’ not ‘Anas’. If ‘Egrettas’ was a commonly used way to refer to species in the genus Egretta, it would be a common name. But there is no current common name used to refer to all the species in the genus Egretta, just the scientific name for the genus. You and I and everyone else could start referring to them as ‘Medium-sized herons’ and eventually, that could be a commonly accepted common name for the species in the genus Egretta. Or we could try ‘Egrettas’ but neither of those are currently the common name for that genus, and there is no current common name for that genus in English.

I guess what I’m getting at is:
It’s not an inconsistency with the iNaturalist data explorer. It’s the nature of common names that sometimes there are good and helpful and unique identifiers, and other times there are not (see this thread here for how duplicated common names sometimes murky things up in the identification process: That’s why we have scientific names - a unique identifier that has been described and typed so that when we discuss a species we are all in agreement about what is being talked about and described. But a common name is often not unique, not consistent across the range, or may not exist at all.


@alexis18 All I’m saying is if there’s a way to fill in the ‘common_name’ blanks this would be great!

Thanks …

I can only echo the notes above - many taxa don’t have common names entered on iNaturalist, so the field for common name will be blank in the exported csv in those cases. Since this doesn’t appear to be a bug, I’ll close out the report. If you want to create your own common names based on the genus name and rank, see above where @pisum provided some basic code for quickly filling in empty fields in Excel.