Is it a bird or a tree?

I’ve come across an observation with a single photo of a tree with a bird in. The observer has identified as a bird but someone else has identified as a tree (both at species level), a 3rd person has added an id of “birds” so it was showing up as “life”. It’s not possible to confirm the bird id due to the qualify of the photo (or even be 100% certain there is a bird there). I think there probably is a bird there and I have no reason doubt the observer’s id (I’m assuming they had a better view of the bird). What would you do here?

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There’s another discussion thread or two on this forum (can’t find it right now) having to do with this type of situation. The consensus is to honor what the submitter identified as the subject – in this case, the bird and not the tree – even if the tree is more easily identified than the bird. This prevents the record from falling into the “Life” category where reviewers are focusing on and providing IDs for different subject organisms in the photo.

You can always add a comment to the record that says something like: “I don’t know what the bird is, but the tree is X.” The submitter can decide if he/she then wants to change what the subject organism is in the record.


I would just add an ID of “Bird”.


Is it a situation similar to on this one? (observer edited description field, but still likely not enough to confirm)


If the observer is clear that the “bird” is the subject, then honour that. If you can’t find the bird in the photo, then make it “no evidence of organism” and comment that you have done so because you can’t find the bird in the pic. Observer might reply with exactly where to look. If you can see the bird but it is not clear enough to ID, then make it Aves or as best as can be done, and perhaps don’t make it an explicit disagreement, as observer may be basing their ID on other factors.


There are situations where I have heard a bird, or seen but not quite been able to get it in the photo. I still upload the photo of the tree it was in (or near) because it has the GPS location and time stamp, but I would usually mark those “no evidence of organism” when I upload. When travelling, if I see something unusual but don’t get the camera out in time, I will often take a photo out the window to capture the time and place and write on a piece of paper what it was and then photo that too… There have been times where I have subsequently learnt that I was wrong with my species guess at the time, such as when I learnt that weka are flightless, so it can’t have been a weka that I saw flying down to a river, it would have been a female pheasant which looks remarkably similar at a distant glance! Hence the importance of marking them as “no evidence”…


Yes, pretty much, but the one I found was way less messy in the ids. The observation you linked show the scenario I was describing better than the one I found! In both cases there is not enough evidence to confirm a bird. I have no reason to doubt that there was a bird, but I’m taking the observer’s word for it.

Is the consensus that the iNaturalist guidelines for the observation you posted say that if the observer has identified as a bird and it’s obvious that wasn’t an accident then it should be left as a bird and “no evidence of organism” clicked to it ends up casual grade? The ideal scenario would be that the observer had identified it as Spinus tristis and marked as “no evidence of organism” so it ends up as casual grade. What should happen to it now I’ve no idea!

I’m presuming something shouldn’t reach research grade based on a photo like that and the observer describing what they saw as I don’t see that’s much different to an observation without a photo.

There are differences of opinion among identifiers on best use of both “no evidence of organism” and “no, can’t be improved” flags for odd situations, including the messy one I linked. But it’s a voting system for each so people can always weigh in with their particular opinions on a given record.

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