iNaturalist: A Comprehensive App Review

If you’re a birdwatching enthusiast or simply beginning your journey, iNaturalist is an indispensable tool to have in your arsenal. This app, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and other entities, acts as a connection between nature admirers and scientists in America.
Our comprehensive guide will delve into various facets of this innovative platform – from its user-friendly interface to its robust data collection capabilities for conservation research. We’ll also explore how iNaturalist users contribute to species lists through logging sightings and creating life lists.
Additionally, we’ll shed light on offline functionality for remote explorations and discuss areas where there’s room for improvement. Finally, we’ll suggest alternatives if you wish to expand your digital toolkit beyond iNaturalist.

Overview of the iNaturalist App

The iNaturalist app is a fantastic tool for nature enthusiasts who want to record and share observations of biodiversity. Take pictures of wildlife, plants, and other organisms with the iNaturalist app and upload them to a shared database.
Not only is iNaturalist a social network for naturalists, but it’s also a citizen science project. You can join various projects that match your interests or help others identify species they’ve observed.
  • Social Network: Connect with fellow nature lovers around the world.
  • Citizen Science Project: Contribute valuable data used by scientists studying biodiversity.
This collaborative approach helps individuals learn about wildlife and aids in tracking changes in species populations over time – vital information for conservation efforts. However, while iNaturalist covers all forms of life from fungi to mammals, it’s not specifically tailored towards birdwatchers, which may limit its utility for this niche.

If you’re interested in birdwatching specifically, there are alternative birdwatching specific apps such as Birda. Birda offers features better suited towards your birding needs, including an integrated species guide, logging of sightings, birding locations, fun challenges and active communities dedicated solely to birds.

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User Interface and Design of the iNaturalist App

The iNaturalist app boasts a simple and intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate. The home screen provides access to key features such as ‘Observe’, ‘Explore’, and ‘Activity’.
‘Observe’ lets you record your sightings, while ‘Explore’ enables you to view observations made by others around the world. The Activity section keeps track of any interactions or updates related to your observations.

Observation Screen

When logging an observation, the app prompts you for details about what you saw, where and when it was seen. You can also upload photos or sound recordings.

Identification Feature

One unique aspect of iNaturalist’s design is its AI-powered identification feature which suggests possible identifications based on your photo. This feature is a game-changer for nature enthusiasts who want help identifying species accurately and quickly.

Data Visualization

In addition, there are data visualization tools that display trends in species distribution and activity over time. These tools help users understand the natural world better and contribute to scientific research.
The interface is designed with a minimalistic approach, allowing users of all levels to navigate the app easily. However, some users have reported difficulties in finding specific functionalities due to a lack of clear labeling or instructions within the app – a minor drawback considering its comprehensive featureset.
In terms of aesthetics, iNaturalist maintains a green color scheme throughout which aligns well with its nature-focused theme but may not appeal universally due to personal preferences.

Logging Sightings in the iNaturalist App

Logging sightings on the iNaturalist app is a breeze. Just snap a photo of your sighting with your phone’s camera, and the app’s image recognition technology will suggest possible identifications. You can either accept one of these suggestions or input your own identification if you’re confident about it. Then, add any relevant notes or tags before submitting.

Three Simple Steps:

  • Step 1: Snap a photo using the iNaturalist app.
  • Step 2: Review suggested identifications or enter your own.
  • Step 3: Add notes or tags before submitting.

Contributing to biodiversity research has never been easier, thanks to iNaturalist. Although iNaturalist requires internet connectivity so while you can log sightings, other functionality may not be available in remote areas. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you might want to check out alternative apps like Birda, which offers offline functionality features.

Life Lists in the iNaturalist App

For birdwatchers, keeping a record of their sightings and life lists is essential. While the iNaturalist app offers a list view of your previous sightings, it unfortunatly does not provide an app based life list of the bird species you have seen. You will have to go onto the desktop based website if you want to see your lifelist. The website life lists are like your personal birding diary, where you can log all the species you’ve spotted and keep track of them.
Viewing your Life List on iNaturalist is easy-peasy. Log in to the website, then access ‘Your Profile’ from the dropdown and select ‘Lists’. Under ‘Life List’, you’ll find all the species you’ve recorded. It’s that simple.
One of the best things about Life Lists on iNaturalist is that they update automatically. Every time you log a new sighting, it gets added to your Life List without any extra effort on your part. This makes it a seamless and efficient tracking system for nature lovers.
However, some users might find the presentation of these lists a bit basic compared to other apps like Birda. Birda offers in-app life lists and more detailed insights such as frequency graphs and migration patterns, which can be incredibly useful for serious birding enthusiasts or researchers.

The Explore Map in the iNaturalist App

One of the coolest features of the iNaturalist app is the Explore map. It’s like a virtual tour of the world’s biodiversity, with observations from nature enthusiasts all over the globe.
You can filter the map by taxon, place, user, project, or date observed. Want to see all the bird sightings in Central Park? No problem. Curious about the plants in the Amazon rainforest? Just adjust your filters.


Filter by specific groups like birds, insects, or mammals. Focus on the species that capture your attention most.


Choose any location on the planet and see what’s been observed there. It’s a fun way to explore new areas and learn about the local flora and fauna.


Follow other users whose observations you find interesting. You can learn a lot from experienced naturalists and see some amazing photos along the way.

Date Observed

Filter sightings based on when they were spotted. It’s a useful tool for tracking seasonal changes and migration patterns.
While iNaturalist is great for general nature observation purposes, it’s not exclusively for birdwatchers. If you’re seeking an app tailored to bird-watchers, then Birda might be the one for you.

Offline Functionality in the iNaturalist App

The iNaturalist app is a must-have for wildlife enthusiasts exploring remote and wild locations with unreliable network connectivity. With its offline functionality, you can capture sightings, take photos, and record observations without needing immediate access to the internet.

Saving Sightings Offline:

  • Select ‘Observations’ from the main menu.
  • Tap ‘+’, then choose ‘Capture’ if taking a new photo or ‘Choose image/video’ if using existing media.
  • Add details like species name (if known), date, time, etc., then hit ‘Save.’

Syncing Observations When Online:

  • Navigate back to ‘Observations.’ You’ll see all saved entries marked as unsynced.
  • Tap ‘Upload’ in the top right corner of each saved entry to sync them. Your observation will now be synced.
This offline functionality ensures no sighting goes unrecorded due to lack of internet connection. So, whether you’re birdwatching in the mountains or exploring the wilderness, the iNaturalist app has got you covered.

iNaturalist and Data Collection for Conservation Research

One of the key features that sets iNaturalist apart from other birdwatching apps is its emphasis on data collection for conservation research. Every sighting logged in the app contributes to a global database, which scientists and researchers can access to study biodiversity.
The iNaturalist platform makes it easy for anyone, regardless of their scientific background or expertise, to contribute valuable data about wildlife sightings. This collective effort has resulted in millions of observations worldwide.
Not only does iNaturalist help researchers track migration patterns and monitor populations at risk, but it also helps discover new species. For instance, the Audubon Society uses iNaturalist’s data to help protect birds affected by climate change.
By logging your sightings into iNaturalist, you are not only enjoying birdwatching but also participating in important conservation work. This commitment towards both education and conservation makes iNaturalist a unique tool among birdwatching apps – turning casual observers into citizen scientists one observation at a time.

Room to Improve the iNaturalist App

The iNaturalist app is a great tool for nature enthusiasts, but it has some areas that could use improvement, especially on the birding front. The user experience of the iNaturalist app may be daunting for newcomers, potentially necessitating a period of adjustment.

Lack of Integrated Field Guide

A significant drawback of the iNaturalist app is its lack of an integrated field guide. This means users need another app or resource on hand for bird species identification, which can be inconvenient when you’re out in the field. It’s worth noting that while this platform accommodates many forms of life sightings – from plants to insects – it isn’t specifically tailored towards birdwatchers.

Broad Focus

This broad focus may dilute the community engagement aspect since people with different interests are all using one platform. Birdwatchers might find themselves sifting through irrelevant content before finding discussions or posts related directly to their hobby.

Occasional Bugs and Glitches

In terms of functionality, there are reports about occasional bugs and glitches within the application that sometimes hinder smooth user experience. These issues range from problems with uploading photos, syncing data across devices, and even crashes during peak usage times.
All these factors considered, it becomes clear why birdwatching enthusiasts might start looking at alternatives like Birda, designed explicitly with their needs in mind.

Alternatives to the iNaturalist App

If you’re a bird lover searching for an alternative to the iNaturalist app, Birda is the perfect choice. It’s a bird-centric app that caters to both beginners and experienced birdwatchers. Birda provides an array of exceptional characteristics that set it apart from other applications.

User-Friendly Interface

Birda’s intuitive design makes navigation easy, even for beginners. You won’t have to spend hours figuring out how to use the app.

Integrated Field Guide

Birda comes with an integrated field guide, so you don’t need another app for identification. With Birda, you have everything you need for successful birdwatching conveniently at your fingertips.

Fun Challenges

Keep your birdwatching exciting with fun challenges that test your skills and knowledge. You’ll never get bored with Birda.

Locations Feature

Discover new places to spot birds using Birda’s handy feature. Never-ending opportunities for exploration await.

An Active Community

Birda’s active community platform connects bird enthusiasts worldwide. You can get help identifying species and share your experiences with other birdwatchers.

Remember, every sighting posted on Birda contributes valuable data towards conservation efforts worldwide via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). So, happy birdwatching.

Connect to nature and like-minded people while you discover and explore the birdlife around you! Amplify your birdwatching experience with Birda today. 

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