Some videos allowed?

I have always been under the impression that videos can’t be uploaded to iNat. However, I just happened across this observation that includes videos:

This is the first time I’ve ever seen videos in an iNat observation. Does anyone know how this works? I thought it was simply impossible to add videos, but in this instance it looks like someone was able to do it. I guess it can’t be common since I’ve never seen it before. Any info appreciated! Thanks!

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Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but these appear to be GIFs, which are a supported file format. You cannot upload real video files (e.g. mp4) however.


Thanks, I was totally unaware that GIFs are a supported format! I’ve never seen them on the site before. Very cool. I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to add them to my own observations. Thanks!

Support for animated gifs is somewhat “off label”, and staff have noted that they are not guaranteed to be supported in the future. I would suggest “future proofing” any observations with animated gifs by including regular old pics in those observations as well.


I see, I guess that explains why they seem not to be too common on the site. Thanks for the tip, will do.

If you want to share videos, you can always link one in the notes section. I’ve seen many users take that approach.


That’s what I do when I get terrible pictures like this one, and it works pretty much perfectly to just host an actual video somewhere else (unlisted if you would prefer it not be visible outside of your observation, of course) & link it. GIFs are too low res to really be meaningful; in the observation that was listed, for example, it doesn’t add anything (as far as I can see, anyway) to the still images, and I’m sure they take up more storage space… so it probably is a good idea to avoid them for multiple reasons even if it’s technically allowed to upload them.

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I really enjoyed the GIFs, which is why I was curious about them. I thought it was cool to see the emergence in action. If they had just been in a linked video I wouldn’t have found them—I came across the observations because the GIFs were “featured images” for the Cicadidae family page, so I was immediately drawn by the moving images. I’m glad to know now that GIFs are allowed. I assume if it becomes too much of a burden on the system for any reason, they’ll take the option away.

Animated GIFs come in handy when a certain behaviour calls for a series of pictures. But they are not necessarily small. The one I produced yesterday packaging 56 frames at 1280 x 960 pixels weighs nearly 35 MB. Of course there is no way to upload such a big file, so I just included a link in the observation’s notes.

Smaller files up to 2 MB are accepted for upload by iNat, but there is a caveat: while the website shows all frames in sequence, the Android mobile app does not – it just shows the first frame like a static still image.


Thanks for the warning! I have one observation in gif format, I’ll be sure to make some stills out of it.

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Perhaps, but the benefit of it there seems mostly aesthetic (as far as I can tell, the identifying features of that cicada are visible in the sitll images), and the aesthetic qualities of an observation have little bearing on the scientific qualities of the observation, which is mostly what we’re here for. The fact that that file format possibly will not be supported in the future also severely limits its benefits. It would just be better suited to a photography group or website rather than here.

I think it’s important to remember that iNaturalist has limited funding and even though it is “free” for us to upload things, it is not free for them to host images. Thus, we should be a little bit concerned about using scarce resources. You don’t need to go ham about conserving space, but it doesn’t hurt to be considerate about it, especially if you don’t donate to give a little bit back to the site.

This is why GIF is generally considered an outdated format and not used any more on the web. Modern video formats are just way more efficient. Probably you would get the same quality with only a few percent of the file size. So I think it would make a lot more sense to instead support video files, but keep the small file size limit. How a creature moves (e.g. bird flight) can be quite a distinguishing feature, especially from a distance when other visual clues are less apparent.


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