Wildlife Glossary of Terms

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Abiotic – a non-living factor in an environment ie. light, water, temperature.
Aestivation – dormancy, generally seasonally
Accipiter – A hawk of the genus Accipiter, characterized by short wings and a long tail.
Aquatic – growing, living in or frequenting water
Arboreal – tree dweller
Autotroph – an organism capable of manufacturing its own food by synthesis of inorganic materials, as in photosynthesis.


Bergman’s rule – among forms of a particular species, body size tends to be larger in the cooler regions of its range and smaller in the warmer regions.
Brood – the offspring of a bird just hatched.
Browse – (v) to eat the twigs and leaves of woody plants; (n) commonly used in wildlife
management to signify brushy plants utilized by deer.
Buteo – Any of the various hawks of the genus
Buteo, characterized by broad wings andbroad, rounded tails.


Carapace – the upper or dorsal surface of a turtle’s shell.
Carnivore – An animal belonging to the order
Carnivora, including predominantly meat-eating mammals.
Carrion – the bodies of dead animals usually found in nature in a decaying state.
Carrying capacity – The number of wildlife species that a given unit of habitat will support without damage to the habitat.
Cast – to regurgitate indigestible prey remains
Circadian – designating a biological period of about 24 hours.
Climax stage – the final stage of plant succession.
Consumptive use – any use that involves activity resulting in the loss of wildlife i.e. hunting.
Contiguous forests – Forests that share an edge or boundary, touching.
Coverts – One or more of a group of feathers covering the bases of the longer main feathers of a bird’s wings or tail.
Covey – a small group or flock, often a family group, of birds such as quail.
Crepuscular – appearing or becoming active
at twilight or dawn. Clutch – eggs laid and incubated by a female bird per nesting.
Corridor – areas of continuous habitat that permit animals to travel securely from one habitat to another.


Dabbling ducks – duck species that principally feed in shallow water by “tipping up” or dabbling on the surface.
Den For bears, can be a hollow tree or log, under roots or a brushpile, or a crevice between or under boulders.
Depredation – the act of preying upon. Mostly wildlife damage to farmer’s crops.
Diurnal – A term used to describe an animal that is most active by day.
Diving ducks – duck species that feed principally by diving below the surface
Dorsal – of or pertaining to the upper surface.
Dump nest – eggs deposited by more than one female in a single nest.


Edge – the place where two or more different plant communities, successional stages or vegetative stages come together or meet.
Endangered Species – Plants or animals that are native to New York and that are in imminent danger of extirpation or extinction here and that are listed as endangered in Section 182.5 of the Environmental Conservation Law § 11-0535 (animals including mollusks, insects, fishes,
birds, and mammals), 6 NYCRR 193.3 (plants) or that are listed as endangered by the United States Department of the Interior in the Code of
Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 17).
Endemic – confined to a certain area or region.
Estivation – a state of inactivity during prolonged periods of drought or high temperatures.
Exotic – Not a native species. Was either introduced or escaped.


Flyway – fly routes established by migratory birds.
Food chain or food web – the relationship between autotrophs, herbivores, and carnivores.
Forest Game – Game species that are managed by the DEC whose habitat needs are found mainly in forests.
Fur bearers – Various animals that have a thick coat of soft hair covering their bodies.
The New York DEC regulates the harvesting of 14 fur bearing species: red and gray fox, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel,
and opossum.


Guard hairs – Long, coarse hairs that forms a protective coating over an animal’s under fur.


Harriers – Any of the various slender, narrow winged hawks of the genus Circus, which prey on small animals.
Harvest – proportion or number of a wildlife population brought to bag by hunters; in wildlife management, killing an animal.
Herbivore – An animal that eats plants.
Herpetology – The scientific study of reptiles and amphibians as a branch of Zoology.
Hibernation – passing the winter or a portion of it in a state of sleep
Home Range – The area an animal travel in when looking for food, shelter or a mate
Humus – Material resulting from decayed plant and animal matter. It provides nutrients for plants and helps keep water in the soil.


Indigenous – a naturally occurring species.
Insectivore – a mammal or organism that feeds on insects.
Inventory – the process of counting or identifying animals.

K, L

Keel – a ridge down the back or along the plastron of a turtle or a longitudinal ridge On a dorsal scale in certain snakes.
Lateral – pertaining to the side.
Limiting factor – Anything that affects a species population. It could result from causes in nature as well as human activities. Examples: food, water, shelter, space, disease, predation, climatic conditions, pollution, hunting, poaching and accidents.
Litter – the number of young born with each


Mandibles – either the upper or lower part of the beak in birds.
Marsupial – A mammal of the order
Marsupialia that includes kangaroos, opossums, bandicoots and wombats. These females have pouches that contain mammary glands and that shelter the young until fully developed.
Melanistic – Abnormally dark pigmentation of the skin or other tissues. Black pigmented.
Migratory Game Bird All wild ducks, geese, and brant. (These also are “migratory waterfowl”).
Coot, Virginia rails, sora rails, and gallinules, woodcock and snipe.
Molt – the process of shedding or replacing feathers.
Monogamous – term used when one male breeds with one female.
Mortality (death rate) – the number of animals that die each year.


Natality (birth rate) – ability of a population to increase; reproductive rate.
Niche – that part of a habitat particularly suited to the requirements of a given species.
Nocturnal – active by night; the opposite of diurnal.
Nonconsumptive use – any use that does not directly kill wildlife, i.e. bird watching, hiking,photography.


Omnivore – An animal or organism that feeds on both animal and plant matter.
Ornithology – The scientific study of birds as a branch of zoology.


Parasite – an organism that lives by deriving benefit (usually doing harm) from another organism.
Philopatry – annual homing to the same nesting area and often the same nest site.
Polygamy or polygyny – term used when a male animal breeds with many females.
Passerine – Birds of the order Passeriformes, which include perching birds and songbirds such as the jays, blackbirds, finches, warblers and sparrows.
Pelage – The coat of a mammal, consisting of hair, fur, wool or other soft covering, as distinct from bare skin.
Population – the number of a particular species in a defined area.
Population dynamics – factors regulating population levels including natality, productivity and mortality.
Plastron – The ventral surface of the shell of a turtle or tortoise.


Recruitment – addition of a number of young to an adult population of breeders.
Riparian area – the area of influence between upland habitats and aquatic habitats.


SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) –vascular plants that live and grow completelyunderwater.
Scat – The excrement droppings of an animal.
Species – populations of animals that possess common characteristics and freely interbreed in nature and produce fertile offspring.
Species richness – the number of wildlife species found in a given area.


Taxonomy – the science of the classification of animals or plants.
Torpor – temporary loss of all or part of the power of motion.
Trophic level – a feeding level in the food chain of an ecosystem characterized by Organisms that occupy a similar functional position in the ecosystem.

U, V, W

Upland game – Game species that are managed by the DEC whose habitat needs are usually found in upland areas.

Ventral – of or pertaining to the lower surface.

Waterfowl – water birds, usually referring to ducks, geese and swans.