Rock & 
Wildlife Database

Explanation of Wildlife Habitat Database

Molly Hale
April 1999

Structure of the Database

The database is divided into six general sections and each section contains 3-6 habitat features:
Forest Stands (Hemlock, White Pine, Red Oak, Black Cherry, Beech, Aspen)
Forest Features (Grapevines, Cavity Trees, Boulder Fields, Upland Banks, Sandy Soils, Road Edges)
Open Areas (Brushy Clearcuts, Log Landings, Meadows & Fields, Forbs, Orchards, Christmas Trees)
Wetlands (Wet Meadows, Bogs & Sphagnum, Shrub Swamps, Forested Swamps, Vernal Pools, Seeps)
Water Bodies (Cattail Marsh, Beaver Pond, Stream, River)
Rock & Structures (Talus Slopes & Cliffs, Caves, Buildings & Structures)

You can go to the general sections by clicking on their names in the blue navigation bar on the left.  Then, to get to the habitat features, click on their names in the blue navigation bars on the left. 

Scope of the Database

This database is designed to help owners of forest land in Massachusetts identify unique habitats on their properties, and the species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that are associated with these habitats.  It is specific to the region of western Massachusetts from  the Connecticut River Valley west to the border of New York State. 

Habitats and species are listed only if they occur in this geographic region.   Species are not listed if they occur only  in urban or non-forested areas.  For example, the peregrine falcon and the nighthawk are essentially urban species in Massachusetts, and the Eastern Worm Snake is found only in the vicinity of the city of Springfield. 

Breeding and overwintering bird species are included; bird species are not included if they merely migrate through the region or are rare erratic visitors.  Wildlife species that are found in nearly all habitats are not listed for each habitat.  Species are listed only if they show some selection for a particular habitat.  See the Species section below in Explanation of the Tables by Column Headings .

Each habitat occurs within the matrix of one or more forest types such as Northern Hardwoods, Oak- Hardwoods, or Spruce-Fir.  Some wildlife species prefer or require a specific forest type or types in addition to a given habitat.  Thus different examples of a particular habitat may contain a different subset of species depending on the surrounding forest type. 

The number of species using a habitat also depends on how big a specific site is.  Larger examples of a particular habitat will be more likely to support both a greater number of species and a greater population within each species.

Explanation of the Tables by Column Headings

Species :  Species are listed by their common name in standard taxonomic order.  Wildlife species are included in a list if they not only use the habitat, but show some degree of selection for it.  Species that discriminate very little in habitat selection are not listed in all their possible habitats. For example, the Red-backed salamander is found in every forest type in Massachusetts, and the Eastern Milk Snake can be found in nearly any hardwood forest type, so they are not listed in any of the forest type habitats in this database.

Listed :  This column indicates whether a species has state or federal protection as a rare species. There is only one federally listed species included in this database, the Indiana Myotis (a bat).  Its status as federally endangered (FE) means that it is in danger of extinction throughout all or most of its US range.  State-listed endangered species (E) are in danger of extinction in Massachusetts.  Threatened species (T) are likely to become an endangered species in Massachusetts in the foreseeable future.  Species of Special Concern (SC) have suffered a decline or occur in such restricted numbers or specialized habitat type that they could easily become threatened within Massachusetts.

Preferred:  This column indicates whether a habitat is critical or more sought out than other habitats by a species for all or part of its life cycle.

Seasons:  This column indicates in which seasons of the year a given habitat is used by a species.  SP, Us, F, and W indicate Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter respectively.  A season is indicated even if a species uses the habitat during only part of that season.  ALL indicates that a habitat is used in all seasons.  Where SP and Us are indicated for birds, this usually means the breeding season, which is the time from spring to fall when migrant species from the south are present here.  Other bird species stay here year round or migrate from the north in winter either regularly or when food supplies are scarce in the north.

Comments:  Specific requirements, if any, of a species within a habitat are listed here.  Species having extremely localized geographic ranges are also indicated here.


DeGraaf, Richard M., and Rudis, Deborah D.  1986.  New England Wildlife:  Habitat, Natural History, and Distribution.  Gen.Tech. Rep. NE-108.  Broomall PA:  US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station.  146 pp.  This was the primary source consulted.  The database on this webpage differs from theirs by only including animals found in western Massachusetts, by focusing on unique habitats, and by including a greater number of habitats.

Veit, Richard R., and Petersen, Wayne R..  1993.  Birds of Massachusetts.  Linclon, MA.  Massachusetts Audubon Society. This source was consulted to determine which birds to include in this database, based on their geographic ranges.  Veit and Petersen obtained this data from the 1974-1979 Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas Project  carried out by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Martin, Alexander C., Zim, Herbert S., and Nelson, Arnold L. 1951.  American Wildlife and Plants:  A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits.  Originally published by McGraw-Hill Books.  Republished in 1961 by Dover Publications, New York.  This source was consulted for the following types:  Grapevines, Black Cherry, Beech, and Orchard.