Should I record animals in breeding pairs or separately?

Sorry if this has been asked or covered elsewhere but I can’t find a definitive answer. I uploaded an observation of a pair of Mandarin ducks (in the UK so introduced originally but now breeding in the wild) but when I came to set the annotations I realised I had to set the sex and my photo showed both the male and the female. Should I upload the photo twice as separate observations for each gender or is it assumed that the single record would be sufficient as it was as the photo gives the data? I wasn’t sure if I used the same photo whether people browsing might think I’d accidentally submitted twice and ignore one?
My understanding is that the website is most useful with single organism records with as much detail in the annotations and notes as possible so I’m assuming I should have recorded twice in this case but wanted to check.

Welcome to the forum!

That’s up to you, but if you want both a male and a female observation, you will need two.

Occasionally identifiers mistake a duplicate photo for a duplicate observation (which yours is not), but mostly they’re understanding. It helps if you crop the photo to the specific individual and/or make a comment like “for the male” or “for the one on the left”.


So I have to judge if gender is worthwhile data? That’s useful to know for future photography anyway and I’ll probably err on the side of caution and assume it might be useful to someone. In this case the female wasn’t easy to photograph and a cropped photo would have made her hard to identify, but shown alongside the male you could see the ID more clearly by association. I guess I could have added the full photo as a second image though now I think about it.


@jwidness pretty much covered it, but I think you should also take into account how much effort you want to put into making annotated observations. Have at it if you’re fine with making multiple observations off of a single picture. Some people will take a photo of something like ten male mallards (just to use an example), number them, and make 10 observations. Some people will make one observation for male mallard. Some people just leave the gender field blank if it’s split. All of those are helpful observations. What would be least helpful is not making any observation at all because you are tired of nit-picking every last detail in the annotations. Find your comfort level, do what you prefer, and carry on making observations.

Also, welcome to the forum!


You can actually find a lot of similar discussions if you search forum for sex annotations, pairs, etc. If people will think it’s a duplicate it’d be a lesser evil, more likely someone can flag it as duplicate, so writing description is absolutely needed in such cases where you use one same photo twice.


You can prepare two photos with male and female signs on it.


I generally upload one photo in the uploader then duplicate it (so only one photo is in the iNat database). In the description, you can say which individual the observation is for and add the proper Sex annotations if you want. Either way, I wouldn’t stress over it.


Thanks for the tips, everyone.

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Following @prokhozhyj 's comment you could make two separate entries with a note saying female (with a red line pointing to it) and that the male is in a separate photo. Then do the same for that one.
As has been said, you have to judge how much effort you want to put into it. I wouldn’t do that - perhaps a comment saying mating pair. I do a lot of identification, and find that most observations do not have any annotations at all. Sex is rarely checked, partly because I work with moths and it’s really hard to tell!

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I was thinking about similar annotations with moths actually. I’ve annotated the sex on a few moths where the female is flightless so it’s clearly the male in the light trap.
I was recently working on a personal project with a certain species of plant that only had about 30 observations and I filled in all the annotations for those which was quite helpful in establishing flowering periods in the wild vs in cultivation. I was wondering if someone was researching distribution of a species based on gender, or something similar, whether a ‘pair’ observation would just cause them problems.

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If you care about having both sexes annotated, duplicate the observation and specify which individual each one is for in the Notes. Personally, I usually just add the one and skip annotating it. It’s annoying that you can’t do both in one, but not worth fighting over since it will never happen. If you don’t annotate the observation, it will likely be ignored in research requiring annotations, so that won’t be a problem. Plenty of people don’t annotate their observations at all, so it will just be another in that bucket.

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The various options for you were mentioned. But, thank you for taking the time to think about how to make your observations more valuable! So many people just want to upload as many photos as possible, regardless of picture quality, meaningfulness of the observation (e.g. ten observations with 10 mallards from a single photo), or anything else. Such things really bug me - though it’s all OK on iNat. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves.


I actually didn’t know that about duplicating photos to cut down on space, I’ll remember that in future.

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It’s not really a big deal, but it’s a little more efficient. :-)


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