Question about response time for IDs

Wondering about observation id response time. Noticing that posts aren’t being id-ed as fast or not at all? Is that normal? To be expected on less than exciting observations?
Thanks in advance, Zeldalola from Frisco, Texas

edited to add: I’m putting in as much information to my observations as I can but I’m an amateur poster.

Also, part of the fun is getting confirmations or any response at all. It decreases motivation if observations go un confirmed or anything for a long time? (not a complaint. Just seeking info.)


It depends on place, taxon, amount of other unided observations, some groups are hardly ided by photos, some just lack experts on iNat. There’s always a bunch (more observations you have bigger bunch is) of non-RG observations you have, they still matter.


Ditto to what Melodi stated. Things like birds tend to get identified pretty quickly as there are a lot of birders on here checking the records. In comparison, plants take much longer to be confirmed given they make up the bulk of many records. And then photo quality makes a difference (blurry birds will still take a long time to get confirmed).

So it all depends. I have some things that get confirmed in seconds and others that are hanging out at order level IDs for years because of some of the reasons mentioned above.


Response time varies a lot. Some observations, like those of many charismatic animals, are often IDed nearly immediately. Some may never get IDed to species. This often has nothing to do with the quality of the observation but has more to do with a lack of available expertise and/or how stretched the identifiers are that would see you’re photos.

To illustrate the problem, just in the DFW area, there are currently over 643,000 observations. To put that number in perspective, the combination of my region of interest and taxon of interest equates to about 88,000 and I often feel overwhelmed. In many circumstances, identifiers simply can’t keep up with the influx.

Something else to keep in mind, many or most plants are essentially unidentifiable without flowers or fruits (and/or a view of the leaves for that matter). If you post these observations, they may never be fully identified.


One factor that may be at play is the time of year. I don’t visit iNat very much in winter because I’m not posting nearly as many observations. Up here, everything is under feet of snow and so all I post are occasional repeat birds and a few lichens. I have noticed a significant drop in activity due to the winter season in the northern hemisphere, which I expect will change as things begin to melt and “come back to life” again. This affects all of Canada and much of the northeastern and midwestern US, which is quite a big chunk of North America, and may include a lot of people who would otherwise see your observations more often.


also this discussion


In the winter time (for the northern hemisphere), however, some of the overtaxed experts do get caught up a bit on their backlog, so many of your most difficult observations will get looked at in the winter.


Winter is a good time to catch up on identifications. On occasion I virtually visit a warmer spot on the globe to see what I might learn about–New Zealand has absolutely fantastic caterpillars. The four-spotted cup moth caterpillar is not to be missed!


I agree with what everyone wrote here regarding factors contributing to observations not being identified. If you have the time, contributing more to the community (adding IDs if you are comfortable doing that, writing comments, etc) is also helpful, as it makes it more likely other users will follow you and see your observations. You also never know when a new user either in your area or who is into certain taxa will go through older observations and add IDs. @malisaspring’s done for some some of my older insect observations!

And also, for some perspective, the average Time to ID is currently about 413 hours (


You’re doing a good job of identifying them as well as you can. Most of us who identify a lot of things focus on one group, for instance, I look at plants in my state plus buckwheats and penstemons all over North America. For a lot of the plants, just getting in front of the right person will increase your odds of an id. Some users just starting out will post a photo with no label at all (which ends up the in the “Unknowns” midden heap) and they’re disappointed when no one ids their photo.

You can also use the Compare tool on the observation page to see species in the same taxonomic group and area. For instance, you might post a cattail and find in the compare tool that there’s only one or two species of cattail in your area and the photos and descriptions can help you decide which one it is.


I think it would be really interesting to see TTID for broad groups (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi, etc.)


When I first started posting on iNaturalist, I was disappointed at the slow wait for identification, or indeed acknowledgement of any kind. (Probably didn’t help that I posted my old grass photos first.) Gradually, though, I built up a community of contacts. I would identify other people’s photos, and some of them would identify mine. People who identified plants in my area would start to “follow” me, seeing my new posts and identifying some of them. I encouraged some of my real-life colleagues to join iNaturalist and a few of them did, and we “follow” each other and identify each other’s photos when we can. Now my many of my more identifiable posts get identified in a reasonable amount of time, and I’m sure that will be true for you.

The problem of lack of response discouraging new users is real, and I don’t know what can be done about it, given the huge volume of users and the fact that nearly everyone on iNaturalist is a volunteer.


It looks awfully skewed for the average to be of any use, but the fact that half of all observations get their first ID in less than 3 days is pretty remarkable.


Then there are a few oddities that are well over the average time, such as some insect groups. I’ve been going through a few groups (mainly wasps, currently green lacewings) that are just now getting genus- or species-level IDs as long as 3-6 years after the original submission. These are just groups that tend to not have many trained identifiers and also tend to have a ton of observations. These groups have a large backlog, and winter’s been a good time to run through older observations (so incidentally, some identifiers may be spending more time wading through old observations versus checking new ones).

But yeah, plants tend to be rather slow to get specific IDs as a whole as well. One thing that can help is checking through top identifiers within the relevant group and tagging one or two of them to see if they can help. This can also help with getting some discussions going as well, and some identifiers may run through a user’s observations within a taxon of interest if there are identifiable photos.


Do you mean that your observations aren’t getting identified as fast as they did previously? I’ve been wondering how much the total number of “needs id” observations had been going up (and how fast) and whether the number of observations per day is increasing faster than the number of identifications made per day. I’ve no evidence that’s true though.

It also depends on photos, e.g. we were discussing Polistes yesterday, for new key you need almost every angle of the insect, while many observations have 1 where you can’t even see clypeus, probably most of those need to be checked by an expert and marked “as good as it can be”.

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You just have to wait it out. As everyone is saying, some identifications occur rapidly, some not so much. I’ve had observations identified in minutes when just the right expert happens to be online. Others take a long time–I just had an ID confirmed from 2017. I had forgotten about that one, but I love when that happens because it’s a nice surprise. I always have a few I want identified quickly because I’m curious, but I’ve been on the site long enough to know that it’s worth the wait. My solution to my burning curiosity is to just keep adding observations. That way, I can count on something being identified that I’m interested in and the one observation I was so focused on that hasn’t been identified yet feels less urgent. Keep moving forward–the identifications will happen. Happy iNatting!

PS Actually, as you add observations, my advice is to read up on all your identifications (even if it’s just the descriptive blurb from Wikipedia). Your own ability to identify (at least partially) gets better over time, so you might even be able to identify some of your old observations at some point. I like when I can see a little improvement in my own skills. :)


I’ll add my voice to the above. I concentrate on Noctuid moths, and even within that range of organisms, there are many I do not know about. When I get a good id, and know the moth’s features, I’ll try to ID all the backlogged observations FROM CANADA. I don’t even look at specimens from the US and Mexico. Still, there are close to 400 pages of unidentified moths. If the average ID time (for me) is 15 to 20 minutes, that takes up a lot of time. And some moths cannot be identified. Either they need dissection, or they are so beaten up that the markings are gone. In my experience, birds and mammals tend to be identified quickly.


The problem is, there’s so many more observers than identifiers (no shame to those who only observe, that’s awesome too!) but it means it can take a while to get IDs, especially in the more difficult or specialized taxa. I do recommend looking up who the most prolific identifiers in your area are for the different taxa, and tagging them on the particularly troublesome ones.


just looked at your observations that still need IDs. almost all plants. plants can take forever to get responses, if they get any IDs at all. a lot of times plant observations lack pictures of necessary features for identification