Flock of birds - how many observations?

Hi! I want to upload an observation of a flock of geese, with a mixture of adults and juveniles, but I also know each observation should be of an individual, even if they are of the same species.

Do I need to create an observation for each individual? (20+ individuals) Or just one for the flock? Or one for adults then juveniles, to allow for accurate annotations?

Hi, you can read previous topics o this question, e.g. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/observations-of-groups-of-animals/19598, observation on iNat is about one individual, so f you want you can add them all separately, but it’s not a thing many people do and you really don’t have to (unless you have separate photos of each bird, where you can see differences, and not 1 photo of the flock), you can also do anything in between, anything you like really.


Technically it should be many observations, but that’s not especially practical. One for adults and one for juveniles would be a decent compromise.


As someone who does lots of ID’s, I say, Please post just one photo, or maybe two so you can annotate one for the adults and one for the juveniles. Technically, you can post one copy for each individual, but I’d rather you don’t.


It’s perfectly fine to just post one photo of the flock. If you really want to create additional observations that’s fine too, such as one for juveniles and one for adults. You can do this without uploading additional copies of the photo by (in the website) clicking on EDIT - DUPLICATE at the top right of the observation. This will create a new observation pointing to the same photo.


Thanks for your replies everyone

I’ve created two observations - one for the adults and one for the juveniles - as I’m learning the annotation data can be useful so wanted to capture both

I also think posting 20+ observations of essentially the same thing would be excessive, although by not doing that I guess I lose the population count data


iNaturalist has many good points, but it can’t be relied on for abundance. So don’t worry about loosing that.


It’s up to you. You can post one for the whole flock, one for each bird, or any number in-between.

You can post one photo of each organism that you can identify as an individual - if you have three headshots of clearly different individual members, you can post all three, is my compromise.

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I don’t think that iNat explicitly states that one observation must have only one organism in it - tons of organisms occur in groups and duplicating the observation for each individual really doesn’t add any value to the data in most cases.

technically it does
“Observations are the basic units of iNaturalist. An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.


Is there some special field that could be useful such as “flock size”?

it doesn’t mean that other organisms must be excluded, just that the focus is on one


I agree with those who think it is not necessary to post an Observation for every single bird in a flock, and would add that in addition to uploading specific Observations for adult and juvenile birds, you might upload specific male and female. (I can’t tell male from female Canada Geese–I assume they can or there would be far fewer Canada Geese–but a common example of this would be Mallards.)

To show that the bird you’re focusing on was part of a flock, include a photo of the flock with some environmental context and perhaps put links to the URLs of the related Observations in the Notes or a Comment.

Lastly, there are Observation Fields to note the number of individuals (there are actually few different field names) in an Observation, if you wish.

A question. When you talk of posting 20+ observations of the same thing, is that in the one photo or in general?
BTW, I would just post the whole flock and leave a note. The immatures could be moved to a separate observation, but even that is time consuming. I assume most folks familiar with the species would know what they are looking at.

The reason to post two copies of the photo, one for the adults and one for the juveniles, is that researchers often just use the annotations to classify photos, rather than read notes or check the photos for themselves.


I was saying that if I were to post one observation per individual in the flock, there would be 20+ observations of the same species at the same location, using the same or very similar photos (because I only have my phone - at that distance, focusing on individuals is basically not possible)


I think it would become a little problematic as you tried to indicate which individual in the flock you were referring to in some cases. Bird flocks don’t typically lend themselves to neat organization enabling you to say the 4th from the left on the 3rd row. So, you might end of with something like “the one with one wing up and one wing bent and partially down, in the lower right center about 1/3 of the way in from the edge.” I’d think that would get tedious for flocks of any significant size. And, as others have said, iNat is more about location/range than abundance (especially since there’s not a consistency in the way people handle flocks) so it really couldn’t be used as a metric anyway.

Additionally, from a logistical standpoint, data storage is not cheap; so if everyone was documenting every individual organism in an image of a flock or large grouping, I’d say it would detrimentally affect the site as a whole without providing a substantial benefit scientifically.

Separate observations for juveniles and adults seems sufficient to me.

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