Normal users change taxon-page photos?

Hi all, not a complaint, just curious.

I was under the impression that only curators could change photos on the species - pages. (I know curators are not admins but still)

Today I found a Black-headed Gull-photo from flickr (which I can’t reproduce now) that was the first to come up in the Brown-headed Gull information page (
The bird had a dark eye, like a Black-headed Gull (the commonest gull where I live) and I figured this was that species. I chose to replace that photo.
I found a better match on flickr (adult summer Brown-headed Gull) and added that to the species-page.

I didn’t know we mere mortals could add photos to speciespages. And I think it’s a bit scary that we can, since mere mortals make more mistakes with id’s than - I think - experts or hopefully curators do.

Am I right in thinking that we can all change the photos that are attached to species pages? And…
wouldn’t it be wise to have a double check feature for that (in some form)

hope to hear from you,

Gerben (housecrows)


Currently, any user can change the default photos on any taxon page. There’s been at least a little push to permit a toggle to lock this to taxon curators in certain cases (after a bit of drama over the H. sapiens imagery being changed every few months or less). I believe the thought had been to still keep most taxa open while permitting locking for problematic taxa, but I’m not sure how far the idea even went.

Personally, I do find that some problems exist as it currently is, notably in that there’s no way to even track who changes a taxon’s default photo. If the photo’s properly identified, it’s no problem. But in the case of misidentified photos being added repeatedly, things can get fairly complicated as you’ve noted. Oh, when you find that a species keeps getting misidentified because the default taxon photo that’s been there for years isn’t even the right species!

Another point is that some taxa are very unreliably identified on external sites such as Flickr and even Wikimedia (I spent a few months tidying up IDs for wasps on Wikipedia, but misnamed filenames may still pop up in a search under the wrong species). This does seem to mostly apply to insects and other invertebrates. Sometimes, users have favored Flickr photos as they’re sometimes higher quality than those readily found on iNat, but the tags are for the wrong species. It may even be possible that the photo that was replaced had been added by blind Flickr import before the Flickr image could be corrected.


Here’s a secret: us curators are mere mortals too :)

Currently there are photos of over 200k species on iNat and there are just under 500 curators. So either each curator must be responsible for 400+ species (and realistically, probably double that since about half of curators aren’t active), or non-curators can pitch in when they feel it’s appropriate. I think Door #2 is slightly more appealing personally.


Bear in mind that it’s not just users who change the photos- as far as I can tell the site algorithms will also occasionally select a new one from the existing pool of research-grade observations. If there are a lot of observations misidentified to research grade for a given species, this does create a bit of a feedback loop.

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The ability to change/add taxon page photos has proven useful for me as a non-curator on a remote island with endemic and native plants such as Ixora casei.
Perhaps a curator would have one day worked on this, but given the load on curators and the remote location this seems unlikely.


Of course it’s a load of work to monitor all species represented here, and it’s probably impossible to curate every taxon properly. I understood that, and I understand it better now…

@er1kksen The photo I removed from the taxon-page was added from Flickr and not attached to a record in the inat-database itself. I don’t know what that means though. Does the system import images from Flickr based on the label there?

It’s good to know that we users can help to refine the taxonpages too. I will check some when I feel confident enough about them.


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I’ve added a fair number of taxon photos to taxa that previously had none. My personal rule is to only use photos from iNaturalist, because that way the photo is linked back to the observation, and it might be a little more obvious that it’s wrong if the observation gets re-identified later on. (Also, I think it’s nice for iNaturalist participants to get the minor-but-still-real “reward” of having one of their photos be the default taxon photo.)


This doesn’t happen. What you’re seeing is the effect of users updating taxon photos. It just doesn’t show a history, which is the main downside at current.

This is a very good reason why the idea tossed up would only be for taxon curators (those dealing with particular groups and given a bit more exclusive to parts of taxonomy) to have the ability to toggle a “lock photos” much like the “lock taxon” function. That way, it would only be applied to problematic taxa and not impede day-to-day activities.

iNaturalist is able to pull Creative Commons images that are uploaded to a few external sites, namely Flickr and Wikimedia (there had been similar set up with Encyclopedia of Life, but they re-structured their site some time ago and inadvertently broke the import ability). The image page, instead of linking to an observation, will link to the original post (i.e. on Flickr). This can be useful at times when a species hasn’t been recorded on iNat yet (or at least not identified as such) but has a decent presence on Flickr or Wikimedia. At present, this import only occurs manually and basically functions as a search on those particular sites (and thus is limited by the accuracy of identification).

This is generally my mindset as well, especially since my particular taxa of interest often have misidentified images on both Flickr and Wikimedia. If we have a local photo of that species, we can track any corrections better. Observations on iNat also seem to be more frequently vetted in the case of invertebrates (so we’re not just dealing with the uploader claiming it’s Species A).


If that’s true, then some of the incorrect taxon ID photos I’ve corrected for common, visually distinctive plants are all the more baffling. It would also be good for users to be notified when their photos are made into taxon default photos, as the uploaders of some of those photos had no idea their misidentified photo had been made the taxon default, and I’ve only ever discovered one of my own photos being a taxon default by stumbling across it at random.


If i had to call out for a curator each time that there is no taxon photo at all, each time the taxon photo is wrong, shows merely flowers but no leaf and no fruits, shows merely head but no tail, shows merely adult but no larvae. Then curators would be very busy. Am rather happy that regular users can add and exchange taxon photos.


I would definitely support such functionality. Even for taxa that are not locked taxonomically, when the default photos for any taxon have become problematic, the ability of any curator (maybe with required concurrence of a second curator) to lock the default photos could help cut down on misidentification and (longer term) mis-training of Computer Vision, and reduce flagging traffic. There should probably be some triggers that automatically unlock the photos again, such as when the taxon is involved in a taxon change.

I sometimes replace the taxon photos for species, mainly fungi, but a few others too, when I see that observations with better images have been posted. I always choose from the verified observations on iNaturalist, and try to choose images that best show the features of the species that will help people in recognising them in the field. In some cases, I find photos of fungi that have been photographed in a lab some time after collection, and are often dried and withered and have lost colour or shape. In these cases, I feel it is preferable to have a detailed, well lit image, taken in the environment in which the species grows.


How the heck would a user change or update a taxon photo? Just curious; I have no intention of doing so.

@ibislander: You do it from the taxon page on the website. (There isn’t a way to do so from the mobile apps, I’m pretty sure.) On the taxon page, if there is no taxon photo then it’s obvious: there is some inviting text where the taxon photo would normally be, and you click there to start the process. If there is already one or more taxon photos, then you click the “Curation” button near the right side, then choose “Edit Photos” from the list that pops up.


thanks for the explanation

Thanks for your replies. To answer a few return questions:
@mreith I am used to adding records to a site that is monitored by admins. Of course that site has time-issues with admins having jobs/passions/… aside from doing adminwork for, so many records outside of the Netherlands remain unchecked. It is a great feature that we users can add to species pages when we feel confident enough, as it is good fun, educational and smart to let us users also judge records here.
Even though that makes ‘research grade’ a slightly dodgy label. There were a few records of Silver Gulls with research grade-labels in The Netherlands. Someone mistakenly translated Zilvermeeuw to Silver Gull, and some others confirmed that initial ID. (Zilvermeeuw = Herring Gull is common in the Netherlands, Silver Gull is an Oceanian species never recorded in Europe afaik)

I don’t doubt though that serious Inatters will only add photos of species to taxon-pages when they are truely certain about the ID


To add to this… I thought it might be wise to clean up the domestic Mallard taxon page a bit (to add a less obvious photo as 1st). But this taxon page seems to show a whole range of mixes, that I think should be on another page (Mallard x XYZ taxon).But I might be mistaken here. Maybe Pekin Duck and Indian Runner ducks are -descendants from a - subspecies of Mallard?

I don’t know…and this question is not for this topic but it indicates the problem with us users as taxon-page-adjusters.

Not meant as a big whine…just some observations of an avid user of the site.


I agree, wrong research grade IDs are not tricky to find. We had a research grade Common Ivy (Hedera helix) observation here on the Caribbean island. When checking the record, it came out to be a Syngonium sp. (a Philodendron relative) growing into a Ficus benjamini tree
I think this is just how this site works … some suggested IDs might be wrong (this likely includes some if the IDs I suggested) … but in the long term somebody will find the wrong IDs and correct them. As you did with the Dutch Silver gulls!

I doubt that wrong research grade IDs like the example i linked, could be prevented by better or more controlled taxon photos.

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yes they are! In doubt look into the web … wikipedia for example has the information that Peking Duck and Indian Runner ducks are descendants from Mallard!

You’re right, it’s not impossible - at all - to check wrongly labelled species but the builders of this site might in time try to make something like an auto-check that is used in for instance in obsmapp-app, where on entering a record in the field you’re questioned about a species that is well out of range
This is a very rare species
Are you sure you want to select this species?

  • Yes I am certain.
  • Yes, but label the record to ‘uncertain’
  • No, choose another taxon

There are probably perfectly good reasons why something like this hasn’t been installed, but it might be something to look into.

Thanks for the domestic duck info…i should’ve known they’re all Mallard…