Is it possible to get IDs just of sounds (no photos)?

As the title says. Can I upload bird sound recordings to inaturalist for help with identification? Or do I require photos?
Thank you kindly


Recordings of animal sounds are fine, with or without photos. I’ve submitted a few bird song records myself without pics.


As @jnstuart stated, you certainly can upload them. As far as I know, the AI doesn’t deal with sound files, so any ID would have to come from other users. My suggestion would be, if you’re going to do so, put in an ID of birds (assuming that’s what you think it is) so that your observations will get looked at by people with some experience in sound ID’s.


For identification of bird sounds I recommend using Merlin app (both iOS and Android). You can use it to record sounds, ID them, and then share to whatever app (at least, in Android) including iNaturalist. The most recent version can even import recordings from other apps/recorders.


I’ve done it once, with the common swift:

Knew what it was - could see them, could hear them plenty, but they were too high up for a good photo. Just holding my phone’s microphone to the sky made a recording good enough to ID from. AI didn’t work on it, but that was fine, I knew what is was already.

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I do use Merlin, and I’ve tried the sound ID, the problem is it doesn’t work for birds in my area! (Australia). It seems quite US centric, at least at this stage of development.


Good idea, thanks, I might take a guess at which bird it is, and then more experienced users can actually correct it (I think that’s what you’re suggesting?)

Have you tried downloading the pack (inside the app) for your region? I’m hailing from Europe, and there’s a Western Palearctic pack and it work amazingly. I can see there’s a pack for Australia too.


I would recommend not guessing a specific ID unless you’re at least fairly sure, but do make sure you ID it at least to the taxonomic level of birds (as opposed to leaving it with no ID) – or a lower taxonomic level if you can – as that will help a lot to bring it to the attention of those with birding knowledge.


It is highly US and Euro-centric, the datasets are much smaller outside of these regions.

that said, experienced birders have notified me that the Sound ID feature can be highly unreliable even in places like Texas, with tons of users and samples comparatively.

In my experience, Merlin’s Sound ID is borderline useless for accurately confirming audio samples in South America.

if you are trying to learn and confirm bird sounds, I highly recommend utilizing as their database is significantly larger than what can be quickly accessed through Merlin.

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It is essentially worthless in my region of south america (Ecuador) as well.

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Sound only: I have gotten an ID of a flying squirrel with the sound only, even! I was stumped having not heard one before.

Re: Merlin - I understand the frustration of euro/american centric and that is its own issue for sure. But Id like to provide another viewpoint. I am hard of hearing. I dont have many bird observations for a reason - i typically dont hear them. I can turn on Merlin and know if there are any around and maybe what they are (its pretty accurate for my area). I ask my birding friends how they find birds, because even when Im with them I can rarely spot a bird unless its close enough / still enough for a very accurate point; and unanimous they say “we hear the call and zero in on where the sound is coming from”. Most can ID from the call too, which is far beyond my physical disability limitations. I literally thought there was no chance I could learn what birds are around because none of that is an option for me - even if i hear one, i dont hear well enough to get a direction. Merlin is really my only link to this whole kingdom :relieved: even if all it did was tell me birds were around, it would be worth it!

I hope they expand it to be more worthwhile in other regions too :relieved:


I tried but it didn’t seem to help with the sounds!

I would recommend not just adding an ID from Merlin to iNat that you can’t verify on your own (at least not without specifying that you are doing so in a note or comment). iNat asks us to identify based on our own expertise. It might be better to add a more general ID (even if it is based on Merlin to get it in the right ballpark) and be sure to follow up on these IDs


Just be sure to cross-reference your samples to confirm Merlin is providing you with accurate information, Sound ID has, even in the southern US provided me with some ludicrous suggestions for species, sometimes thousands of miles out of range.

This isnt a solution for everyone, but I know many hunters and trackers with hearing impairment that utilize something like Walkers Game Ear, essentially a hearing aid for the field.

the price isn’t cheap but they’re a lot more functional than a typical hearing aid, with a lot of features to tailor the sound to your hearing preference, including compression and EQ (which is a godsend if you have hearing damage like myself, I detest an abundance of sub-low frequency information when monitoring, removing these problematic frequencies will also extend the amount of time before you develop ear fatigue.)

Do those work for shooting too? We do deer hunt. Like they are safety as well?

That is actually what they’re designed for, I believe.

I checked a few different models as well as the FAQ

"How does the Game Ear protect your hearing?

The products are designed with sound activated compression circuitry, which activates instantly. The Behind-the-Ear models delivers a noise reduction rating of 29 to 31 dB. With proper use and care, your Walker’s product should last you many, many years. With Walker’s your hearing protection is truly our concern."

Could be a game changer :]

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Ah last year I got some similar I just remember - I have some over the ear muffs that amplify sound and cancel shots so probably basically same thing!

@matt2033 Welcome to the Forum and also welcome to iNaturalist. I noticed that your first and only observation is that sound recording that you are wondering about. Generally on the forum we don’t talk about individual observations but there are a few things that other new users can learn from your question.

In general bird observations are identified quite fast on iNaturalist by users. However, not as many users are familiar with bird sounds so it may take a little longer to get identified. To date, on iNaturalist, their are 367,027 observation world wide that have sound, 275,223 have community consensus (reached research grade, RG), of those consensus was reached through only 15,558 identifiers. The United States has 121,471 RG observations, achieved by 6,948 identifiers. In Australia, there are only 8,778 RG observations identified by only 799 users. It also depends on the quality of the recording much the same as blurry or very small images of birds may slow down the identification process. Your recording quality is reasonably good so I would think that someone will be able to pinpoint it for you.

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