Recently I was in the Southwestern US for a few months and was able to observe scores of hummingbirds visiting feeders every day. Probably 95% of these individuals were juveniles or females - certainly not adult males, which as a Northeasterner, made for some very chancy identifications. As it turned out , the great majority of my IDs were erroneous as I discovered when several identifiers with way more expertise on the hummingbirds of the Southwest, stepped in to correct my initial identifications. I’m wondering if perhaps I should in future, when confronted with an uncertain ID, just put it down to genus or evan family level and let it go at that.
That’s certainly an option and with birds, especially, you’ll still get people identifying them. I resort to jumping to a broader taxon quite often when I’m dealing with something I am not very familiar with.
That’s probably the best way of handling it. I often do that with moths I find difficult to take to species (like Lithophane spp.). Use the highest taxonomic classification you are comfortable with.
Another way would be to add your ID and leave a note saying you may be unsure of the correct ID. I consider it part of the ‘job’ of confirmation ID person to catch mistakes, rather than just agreeing and moving on.
It’s also good to note that for birds it’s not really a big deal - those get so many people looking at them that most errors are quite reliably corrected. In other groups, the risk that a mistaken ID stays on is greater.
I personally put most birds to species except when unsure, then I usually put a genus - because for birds, it’s quite unlikely for me to now know the genus. For other wildlife and especially invertebrates I have much less confidence - I put a species only when I am quite sure - maybe for some butterflies and dragonflies for example. Otherwise, I pick what the AI says when it’s “pretty sure” and its genus or broader, or I just put a broader category myself.
You can add any taxon you like, even life, system kinda pushes users as if you need to add a species (at least many people feel it that way), but in fact there’s no pressure, just add any id you’re sure in.
Thanks to all for your input.
Just another note. Don’t rely too much on the automatic name suggestion. It works great sometimes, and can often give a clue to an id, but often it doesn’t deal well with variation. I see it a lot with moths - folks clearly pick the first suggestion, and while it may be similar or correct, it may not be. This year I’m finding a lot of Noctua pronuba mis-identified to Peridroma saucia for that reason.
Yes - I have discovered that. I’ve had some butterfly photos that have been ID’s/verified by experts and when I go to post them on iNaturalist, it will sometimes suggest something different altogether. Same with juvenile hummingbirds - had them verified by the person who literally wrote the book on NA hummingbirds & often the "suggestion was way off.
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