Share | facebook twitter flickr flickr

Species Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | Z

Back to top


A physical characteristic or behavior that a plant or animal develops in response to its habitat.


Inviable. An egg that contains a dead embryo.


A birds nest. Raptor nests are most commonly referred to as an aerie.


Born in a relatively underdeveloped state as is the case of peregrine falcon chicks.


An animal belonging to the order (Amphipoda) of small crustaceans (such as a sand flea) having a thin, flattened body.

Anal scale (or anal plate)

In snakes, a scale or plate just in front of the cloaca. The scale can either be single or paired.


A pair of appendages used for sensing by arthropods such as insects and crustaceans.


the result of human activity


The region around the Earth’s North Pole, north of the Arctic Circle.


In birds, the situation when a clutch of eggs do not hatch at the same time. Rather, the eggs hatch over a period of days. Many raptors exhibit asynchronous hatching. This is a natural adaptation where if food sources are scarce then only the strongest young survive to fledge.


In birds, the situation when a clutch of eggs do not hatch at the same time. Rather, the eggs hatch over a period of days. Many raptors exhibit asynchronous hatching. This is a natural adaptation where if food sources are scarce then only the strongest young survive to fledge.

Back to top


A hard yet flexible substance made of keratin (the same material as hair, horns, scales and fingernails) that occurs in a series of comb-like plates suspended from the upper jaws of some whale species which filters and traps prey inside the mouth.


Streaking, lines or stripes on an animal. Barred owls exhibit vertical barring on their bellies and horizontal barring on their chest.


To lie or relax in a warm location; to bask in the sun.


Bill of a bird.


The science of living beings and life processes.


When levels of substances build up and become concentrated as they work their way up the food chain.


A mollusk, such as an oyster, clam, or mussel, having two shells hinged together.


The number of young produced or hatched at any one time.


To sit on or hatch eggs; to protect and care for young.

Bubble net

A hunting technique used by humpback whales where bubbles, exhaled by one or more whales, are used to herd or disorient schools of fish in order to make them easier to capture.


Unwanted marine creatures that are caught in fishing nets while fishing for another species.

Back to top


To store or bury food for future use. Animals such as squirrels or woodpeckers often exhibit caching behavior.


Mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate, a chalk like substance.


Raised, thickened, and roughened patches of skin on the head of a right whale. Callosities are generally home to large colonies of whale lice. The number, size, and configuration of callosities differ between individuals, allowing scientists to tell animals apart from each other.


A carapace is a dorsal (upper) section of the exoskeleton or shell in a number of animal groups, including arthropods such as crustaceans and arachnids as well as vertebrates such as turtles and tortoises


The dead body of an animal.


The carcass of a dead animal.

Carrying capacity

The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment.


The soft, fleshy part of a raptors beak where the nostrils are located.


An organized structure of protein and DNA found in cells. Contains the genetic material that is passed on to offspring.


The posterior opening that serves as the only opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tract of certain animals such as birds, reptiles, and amphibians.


A complete set of eggs produced or incubated at one time.


A condition which occurs to sea turtles when they become immobile due to a dramatic decrease in water temperature (usually below 50°F). Without proper intervention, a cold-stunned sea turtle will inevitably die.


The contest between animals in an environment for available resources (food, shelter, etc.).


Needle-leaved or scale-leaved, evergreen, cone-bearing gymnosperm trees or shrubs such as pines, spruces, or firs.


The wise use of natural resources.


A snake that kills its prey by constriction, or squeezing its prey to death.


Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance causing an impurity in the environment.


In regards to forests, large areas of forested lands with no roads or low densities of roads and little or no human development. Ideally, these areas are connected to other forested areas and habitats. Contiguous forests are necessary for animals such as bobcats and birds such as wood thrush, scarlet tanager, and barred owl.

Contour feathers

The outermost feathers of a bird that give the bird its characteristic appearance.


A color pattern, serving as camouflage, in which dark colors occur on the upper portion of the body and lighter colors occur on the underside.


Specialized behavior that leads to or initiates mating.


Feathers of a bird that cover other feathers. Coverts appear on the wings and tail of birds and help to smooth airflow over the wings and tail.


Active at dawn and dusk.


A large group of arthropods which includes lobsters, crabs, crayfish, shrimp, and krill. Like other arthropods, they are invertebrates with an exoskeleton, jointed appendages, and a segmented body.


Camouflaged coloration used to help conceal an animal.

Back to top


DDT (from its trivial name, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides. It is a chemical with a long, unique, and controversial history.


Typically used in reference to deciduous trees or forests; to lose leaves seasonally for some part of the year.


Found on or near the bottom of a body of water.


A fish which migrates between fresh and salt water.


To cultivate (soil) with a disk harrow.


Applies to the back of an animal or anything on the back of an animal; a dorsal fin is the back fin.

Double Brooding

Producing two sets of young during the nesting season. Some birds species will incubate, hatch, care for, and fledge a one set of young and then renest and start the process over again, producing another set of young during the same nesting season.


The process of taking a clutch of eggs early in the incubation period such that the birds renest and produce a second clutch. This allows a clutch of eggs to be used for reintroduction elsewhere.


Organic matter in various stages of decomposition on the floor of the forest.

Back to top


The science concerned with the interaction of organisms and their environment.

Endangered species

Status given to a species whose prospect for survival within the state is in immediate danger due to one or several factors, such as loss or degradation of habitat, over-exploitation, predation, competition, disease or environmental pollution, etc. An endangered species likely requires immediate action to avoid extinction within NJ.


Where rivers meet the sea; a partly enclosed coastal body of water with at least one river flowing into it, and with open access to the sea.


The end of a species; when a species dies out it is classified as extinct.


Local extinction is where a species (or other taxon) ceases to exist in the chosen area of study, but still exists elsewhere. This phenomenon is also known as extirpation. Local extinctions are contrasted with global extinctions.


Local extinction is where a species (or other taxon) ceases to exist in the chosen area of study, but still exists elsewhere. This phenomenon is also known as extirpation. Local extinctions are contrasted with global extinctions.


Young hawks.

Back to top


Small hawk with long tapered wings especially adapted for fast flight and hunting.


Used to describe a field or meadow that has been left unseeded or uncultivated for a season or more.


To fake an injury or death. Some birds such as piping plovers and killdeer, are known to fake or feign an injury to lead a predator away from their nest.

Fidelity (site)

When an animal returns to the same nesting site year after year or when an animal returns to its birth place to reproduce.

Fledge, fledgling

The stage of a young bird’s life when the wing feathers and muscles are strong enough to be capable of flight; a young bird that is just beginning to fly but is still dependent on its parents.


The tail of a whale.

Food chain (food web)

A chain of organisms along which energy, in the form of food passes. An organism feeds on the preceding link and is in turn prey for the succeeding link.


To search for food; also can be used to describe the food that is eaten by animals.


A herbaceous flowering plant that is not a grass, sedge, or rush. Is often used to describe wildflowers of an area. Sunflowers, clover, and milkweed are all examples of forbs.


The front wing, and usually smaller wing, of an insect having four wings.


Describes an animal that spends much of its life underground.


The process of providing chicks for infertile wild peregrines to raise.

Fragmentation (of habitat)

When a large region of habitat is broken down, or fragmented, into a collection of smaller patches of habitat.


The uppermost part of the head of an insect.

Back to top


An animal or plant which is able to exploit a wide range of environmental conditions or food. Opposite of a specialist.




To gather food from an area such as when a bird gathers food such as insects, from tree twigs, branches, bark, or leaves.


The larval stage of a freshwater mussel.



Back to top


The environment in which an organism lives; its home. Food, water, shelter or cover, and space necessary for an animal to survive.

Hack boxes

Cages used in hacking.


Chicks which are hatched in captivity are raised and released from cages where food is provided with little human contact until the birds can be released into the wild.


A baby bird that has emerged from an egg.


A plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season.


An animal that feeds primarily on plants.


A place where an animal hibernates during the winter.


to spend the winter in a dormant condition.


The back wing of an insect having four wings.


The offspring of two different species.


To produce offspring from two different species.

Back to top


Not fully developed.


Caring for eggs under conditions favorable for development.

Indicator species

a species whose presence or absence reflects on the quality of that environment


Native to an area.


Feeding primarily on insects.


The stage in the development of an insect between any two molts.


Having rainbow colors that appear to move or change as the angle at which they are seen changes.

Back to top


Immature; young.

Back to top


Refers to a scale that has a ridge running down the middle. Opposite of a keeled scale is a smooth scale.

Back to top


A distinct juvenile stage that many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. The larva’s appearance is very different from the adult form. An example is a caterpillar that will turn into a butterfly.


The region between the eye and the bill on the side of a bird’s head.

Back to top


Area at the sides of a birds chin.


Lower jaw. In birds, it refers to both the upper and lower beak.


Nuts, fruits, and other plant material that accumulates on the forest floor.


To transform from a larval stage such as a tadpole to an adult stage such as an adult frog. First stage and last stage tend to look very different from each other.


A seasonal move from one place to another place (sometimes from one climate to another climate).

Millinery trade

Hatmaking; with regards to wildlife, pertains to the exploitation of bird feathers to adorn women’s hats.


Any invertebrate of the phylum Mollusca, typically having a shell of one, two, or more pieces that may wholly or partly enclose the soft, unsegmented body. Shells are mostly or partly calcareous, composed of calcium carbonate. This group includes snails, slugs, bivalves, squids, and octopuses.


To shed or lose hair, feathers, and skin periodically.


The state of having only one sexual partner at a time.

Back to top


The inner portion of a mollusk’s shell.


The back of the neck.

Natal Site

Place of birth. Many animals will return to their place of birth (or natal site) to reproduce.


A newborn.


Preparing a nest for laying of eggs.


Active at night.

Back to top


An animal that eats both animal and plant foods.


Taking advantage of opportunities as they arise; feeding on whatever food is available.


A scientist who studies birds.

Back to top


A chemical substance (e.g. an insecticide or fungicide) that kills harmful organisms and is used to control pests, such as insects, weeds or microorganisms.


Remaining in, or returning to, an individual's place of birth.


The common reed; a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world.


Swimming legs.


pertaining to functions and activities of a living organism and its parts


Pine Barrens; a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across southern New Jersey defined by sandy, acidic, nutrient poor soils.


From the Latin for “wing-footed” or “fin-footed”, this term is used when referring to seals, sea lions, and walrus.


Microscopic plants and animals.


The plastron is the nearly flat part of the shell structure of a turtle or tortoise, what one would call the belly, similar in composition to the carapace; with an external layer of horny material divided into plates called scutes and an underlying layer of interlocking bones.


Refers to both the layers of feathers on a bird as well as the color, pattern, and arrangement of those feathers.


A group of dolphins, porpoises, or whales.


When a male animal mates with more than one female.


Birds that are able to walk and feed themselves upon birth such as a piping plover.


An animal which hunts and eats other animals.


An animal that is killed and eaten by another animal.

Primaries (feathers)

The contour feathers that propel the bird through the air. They are the outermost wing feathers on a bird; the largest wing feathers and the furthest from the body. In most birds, there are 10 primary feathers on each wing.


The first of three segments in the thorax of an insect that bears the first set of legs.


A lifestage of an insect undergoing complete metamorphosis. The pupal stage follows the larvae stage and precedes adulthood. The chrysalis is the pupal stage of a butterfly.

Back to top


A bird that hunts and eats meat; also known as bird of prey. Raptors use their talons to catch their food and their strong, curved beaks for tearing food into bite-sized pieces. Falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are raptors.


Present in a given location but unlikely to be seen because the species is found in small numbers or is not regularly found in a particular location


Wing feathers that are used in flight.


The repair of ecological damage to an ecosystem so that it is close to the natural condition prior to a disturbance and it can function as a normal self-regulating system. This is done through processes such as chemical cleanups, revegetation, and the reintroduction of native species.


Tail feathers that are used in flight.

Reverse sexual dimorphism

When females are larger and heavier than males as is the case with most raptors.


The area along a stream or river.


A perch on which birds can rest or sleep; a secure place where bats rest, sleep, and/or rear their young.


Reddish brown or brownish red in color; rusty colored.

Back to top


Animal excrement; dung; feces


The type of nest made by many birds including peregrine falcons; a shallow depression in soil, sand, or gravel.


Bony external plate or scale, as on the shell of a turtle, the skin of crocodilians, or the feet of some birds.

Secondaries (feathers)

Feathers connected to the forearm of a bird closer to the body than the primaries. Some birds can have as few as 6 secondaries (as in hummingbirds) or more than 40 (as in some species of albatross).


A flowering plant that resembles a grass or rush but has a triangular stem with leaves that are arranged in a spiral pattern in three ranks; any plant in the Cyperaceae family.


Young that are not mobile at hatching and are fed and brooded by parents

Sexually dimorphic

Differences in size and appearance between males and females of the same species.


A standing partly, or completely dead tree.

Special Concern

Animals that need special protection because they are vulnerable to environmental threats but they do not warrant an endangered or threatened status. This category would also be applied to animals that scientists know little about their population status in the state.


A sample that is representative of a particular species or characteristic.


A capsule or mass created by males of some species, containing sperm. Spermatophores are then transferred to the female during mating. Some species of salamanders such as the spotted and blue-spotted salamanders use spermatophores in reproduction.


Tiny, spine like structures.


A group of marine mammals of the same species which occur in the same area and interbreed when mature.


To descend swiftly in flight, or dive after prey. "A hunting peregrine falcon stoops after prey."


A headfirst, bullet-like dive through the air, usually performed by raptors in pursuit of prey. Peregrine falcons can reach speeds of over 200 miles while in a stoop.


Juvenile; an organism that has not quite reached adulthood.


To survive or support oneself.


The surface on or in which animals such as mussels or clams, live or gram; the material that is used to build a nest.


A sequence of events coming one after the other in time; ecological succession refers to a more or less predictable change in the structure of an ecological community


To occur simultaneously, or at the same time.

Back to top


The sharp, hooked claws of a bird of prey.


The science of classifying organisms.


A geographical area defended by an animal against other animals of the same species or sometimes other species.


A part of an animal 's body that lies between the head and the abdomen.


Applies to an animal that may become endangered if conditions surrounding it begin to or continue to deteriorate.


The male peregrine falcon, thus named because it is about one-third the size of a female.

Trophic level

Different levels or steps in the food chain.


An ecosystem (or biome) where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons.

Back to top


The lower level of trees and shrubs in a forest.

Undulating (flight)

A form of flight in birds that alternates flapping and gliding.

Back to top


A mass of plants growing in a particular place.


An animal which is able to inflict a poisoned bite, sting, or wound.

Vernal pool

Natural or man-made wetland depressions that hold water for at least two consecutive months out of the year and are devoid of breeding fish populations.


An animal with a back bone.

Back to top


Plankton that consists of tiny animals, such as copepods, krill, and fish larvae.


In birds, having two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward such as in a woodpecker or osprey.

Ask An Expert

Image of Short-eared owl.

Have a question about wildlife or threatened or endangered species in New Jersey. Ask away and we'll do our best to give you a wise and informed answer.


icon Sign up for Email

Don't miss the latest wildlife news from Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

Image of signup email