What is an Identification?

Modified on Tue, 23 Apr at 8:53 AM

An identification, or ID for short, is an assessment of the type of animal, plant, or other organism that was observed. It is typically listed with a common name and a scientific name, though some species do not have common names. When you make an observation, identify the organism as best as you can, even if that is just "Plants" or "Birds". Each user can have one active identification on an observation.


On iNaturalist, other users are encouraged to add identifications to each other’s observations, based on the evidence provided, in order to confirm or improve the Community Identification.


Add identifications at a taxonomic level that you are confident of and that is supported by the evidence provided in the observation. For example, if based on the evidence in the observation, you think it could be either a Short-tailed Weasel (Mustela erminea) or a Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata), but you're not quite sure or the evidence isn't clear enough, you should add an identification of Weasels (genus Mustela). 

You should be able to independently confirm your identification and be able to defend and explain it, citing evidence if asked. Please do not rely solely on AI tools like iNaturalist's Computer Vision suggestions, Merlin Bird ID, and the like. While those tools are helpful, they should not form the sole basis of your identification.


There are several types of IDs:

  • Leading: Taxon descends from the community taxon. This identification could be leading toward the right answer.
  • Improving: First suggestion of this taxon that the community subsequently agreed with. This identification helped refine the community taxon.
  • Supporting: Taxon is the same as the community taxon. This identification supports the community ID.
  • Maverick: Taxon is not a descendant or ancestor of the community taxon. The community does not agree with this identification.

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