Hybrids observed on iNat without existing taxa

What hybrids have been reported on iNat that, with no taxon, are sitting at genus level or above? Post them below!

When observations of hybrid organisms that do not have a taxon (option) yet are posted on iNat, they sit at genus level or above and are quickly lost amongst the ocean of other observations. It’s extremely difficult to find them unless they’ve been tagged (under observation fields) or added to a project. Due to the current policy of not adding most hybrid taxa, there are thousands of observations of hybrid organisms in this position. Even when taxa for them are eventually added, it can be difficult to track down observations of such. For example, if Red-shouldered x Common Black Hawk was added, users would have to look through the 31,500 ‘Needs ID’ Accipitridae observations to find this observation of that hybrid. Flags do not work and many hybrid taxa created by a few curators a couple years ago were quickly inactivated. Regardless of one’s opinion of hybrids on iNat and iNat taxonomy, I think it would be useful to have a catalogue of the hybrids observed that do not have existing taxa and are thus sitting at genus level or above.

I’ve made a Hybrids without iNat Taxa Project to do just this. I’ve gone through many flags, observation fields, other projects, and research grade genus-level observations to track down hybrids, but it’s all looking for needles in a haystack. Here’s the running list of hybrids in the project.

What wild hybrids have you seen observations of on iNat that do not have a taxon? I’m promoting this project here as many forum users have made threads about this issue in the past, and I think many users here would know of observations that apply. All taxa are on the table, from Blue Whale × Fin Whale to hybrid sedges.


Hmmmmmm I don’t think I agree with the current policy if I’m honest. The reasoning is that hybrid taxa have “vague morphological delineation and taxonomic uncertainty” and that “adding IDs of higher-level taxa is usually sufficient”. I agree that they are generally vague and there is likely always going to be some uncertainty, and that is a good reason to be cautious about IDing hybrid taxa, but that doesn’t really make sense as a reason not to add hybrid taxa into the system. Plenty of species and genera are full of taxonomic uncertainty and have very vague morphological delineation (e.g. Caedicia), but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be added, just that we should be cautious about identifying sightings as such.

I also disagree that adding higher-level IDs is sufficient, because as is obvious here it makes them extremely difficult to find. Hybrids are unusual and can be very scientifically important (especially rare hybrids), and surely we should try to make them at least somewhat easy to locate.

In my opinion, if there is good evidence that a hybrid exists then I do not see a reason not to add it. If it later becomes clear that the hybrid doesn’t actually exist, then it can easily be swapped/merged/deactivated just like a synonymous taxon.


Lots of different Tadorna species between together and with mallard.
Now for some reason are ided as pure species. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&q=крягарь&verifiable=any
Oenanthe pleshankaxOenanthe isabellia

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Another problem with this system is that users will ID a hybrid as one of the parent species instead (often the one that looks more similar). The previously mentioned Ruddy Shelduck x Mallard is an example of this. People have ID’ed the hybrid as simply Ruddy Shelduck and mixing it into the wrong taxon.

Muscovy x Mallard hybrids too. Domestic Mallards cause much confusion amongst ID’ers and before the hybrid taxon was introduced, Muscovy x Mallard was labeled a domestic Mallard when it wasn’t. I’ve gone through hundreds of incorrect ID’s and there’s still more out there!


I agree with everything said above. I dont think we have anything to loose by adding the hybrids. Ive recently had a discussion about it here: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/553039


Thanks to @jf920 for alerting me to this forum thread. I think my preference is for an intermediate position, where iNat only adds hybrid taxa that (a) may reasonably be encountered outside cultivation/captivity and (b) have names supported by published (preferably peer-reviewed) research or a similar external authority.

On the first point, it’s reasonable (to me) for iNat to include a published name for a hybrid that occurs regularly in the wild (such as quite a few bird hybrids). It’s also reasonable for iNat to include a published name for a hybrid created by a plant-breeder that has naturalized extensively (given that many hybrids are sterile, this propagation might be by vegetative means). In both cases, iNat’s target audience of people going out to observe the natural world may encounter these organisms and it’s useful to be able to connect them to a published species name. In the case of a naturalized hybrid cultivar could also help track invasive populations. And for hybrid taxa with sufficient observations, we can expect that in time computer vision might be trainable to distinguish these hybrids from their parent species.

I think the justification for adding taxa for other cultivated hybrids is weaker. Certainly, iNat users do add many observations of cultivated plants and many of them will be hybrids, but that’s not the primary mission of iNat. You might ask what harm it would cause to have these hybrid taxa available. I think there are two problems.

First, a proliferation of hybrid taxa makes it harder for novice observers (i.e. most iNat users, and probably all of us when it comes to some parts of the natural world) to find and apply the correct ID. I can imagine some future iteration of iNat that supports identification of cultivated organisms as a parallel endeavor with a separate path for computer identification, but right now more cultivars = more confusion for those identifying wild organisms.

Second, every taxon that deviates from one of iNat’s authorities creates a burden of ongoing maintenance work. That’s somewhat feasible when the deviation is because we don’t want to wait for POWO or another source to catch up to current research. In most cases, those updates will eventually get made by the external authority and the two taxonomies will be back in sync. But for cultivated hybrids, we would be permanently adding large numbers of taxa not linked to any external authorities. Worse, future research on their wild relatives might well reorganize these sections of the taxonomy and leave cultivated hybrids stranded in the wrong genus or orphaned entirely. As they’re not going to be in scope for taxonomic treatments, we’re very unlikely to have any source that explains where they should end up.

I would suggest that as an alternative to adding iNat taxa for cultivated hybrids (or unpublished natural hybrids), we (or iNat) could promote the consistent use of observation fields to track them. There are already several similar fields:

Hybrid name: https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/7126
Hybrid (yes/no/not observed): https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/14064
Natural hybrid: https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/12135

Cultivar Name: https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/7618
Name of Cultivar: https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/6311
Cultivar: https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/301
Cultivar? (yes/no/maybe): https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/11009

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I understand not wanting to add a taxon for every cultivated taxon, it’s a lot to keep track of and add to the system. An example being that many duck hunters own Wood Duck x (insert duck here) to use for baiting other ducks.

But when a hybrid is viewed on a regular basis in the wild and is recognized in peer reviewed studies, there is little reason for the taxon not to be added.


In the scenarios that @jf920 was looking at, I believe we’re only talking about cultivated plants.

Funnily enough, I ran across this thread as I was debating going to try and find that exact bird tomorrow. It’s a shame there’s not a way to correctly ID it in the iNat system.


I appreciate @jf920 's expertise in teasing out - that is NOT a natural species.
Potplants or garden plants - Not Wild - are already across iNat. Better to be able to mark them as hybrid and then casual as appropriate.

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One time I went through cultivated agave and left comments on some of the observations showing hybrids, and then afterwards, another person came and IDd them as one of the parent species, saying that was “the best that was possible”/“better than genus.” This made me very uncomfortable.


Hybrid IDed as ONE of the parents - makes the taxon pictures and distribution map, both wrong and confusing.

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@rupertclayton About many taxa confusing novice users: I agree on that. It is already the case. But thats more a problem of the search alogrithm i think. Currently even if i type the scientific name letter by letter, the taxon i want is ofthen not even in the top 3 search results. Instead the algorithm ofthen prefers some barely used subspecies, subfamilys/tribes etc., hybrids, or in many cases taxa that seem completely unrelated by name, but have some invalid or synonym names saved on their taxon page. I think we should focus on improving search to deliver relevant results, instead of not adding new taxa. This could be done for example by priorizing species level results over others, and giving synonym names a lower weight in search results. Also by having hybrids having a lower place in search results.

Regarding the maintenance work: i cant speak about that since im not a curator and cant tell how much work it actually is. A compromise could be, for cultivated hybrids, to only add the most popular ones. There are hybrids with hundreds or even thousands of observations, that could be worth the extra work. Maybe hybrids at genus level should also be added, since there arent many of thouse. Whereas at species level, the possible combinations are near endless, it makes sense to only add the most common. Maybe for large genuses we can also consider one general hybrid taxon by genus, like it has been done with Agave ×, but i dont know wether that makes sense or is allowed taxonomically.

Im not a fan of observation fields, since spelling may vary, it is not integrated into taxonomy, it requires to put an extra ID to disagree, and is ofthen overlooked.

Since we all seem to agree on hybrids in the wild at least, can someone maybe resolve this: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/562754
This hybrid is naturalized on a large scale, growing wild in very many plaves. It is extremely common. Adding it would allow me to efficiently clean up that genus which has a horribly amount of misidentifications, ofthen as the parent species, as others have pointed out. Also it isnt morphologically vague beeing clearly distinct from both parents.

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On a similar note, what is the logic whereby some hybrid species have the X and others do not? In the Wikipedia article on Mandevilla, it refers to “The hybrid cultivars Mandevilla × amabilis,” with the X indicating a species of hybrid origin. Yet the iNat taxon is Mandevilla amabilis, without an X. Meanwhile, in other cases, such as Canna X generalis, iNat does include the X.


Good news! Th Ruddy Shelduck x Mallard taxon was added today!


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