Using the Field Guide

The Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida is designed to be used in the field and can be customized by each user. The three-ring binder and unnumbered pages allow users to arrange the species accounts in any way that is convenient - e.g., by common or scientific name or by county, water management district, or any other regional unit. This format will also facilitate future updates and additions. The Guide features more than 150 rare animals, including 47 federally listed taxa, 102 state-listed taxa, and more than 40 additional rare species, subspecies, or populations.

Explanation of Species Accounts

Common and scientific namesare provided at the top of each page. They are derived from various sources but generally represent the current consensus of the scientific community. Alternative scientific names are given for animals for which a different name is used by state or federal agencies, or where pertinent literature uses a different name.

Order and familyrepresent two commonly used higher categories of classification for grouping similar species.

A Florida distribution mapaccompanying each account allows the user to determine whether a species potentially occurs in a particular area. The habitat description, coupled with further information in the selected references, should help the reader to decide whether a specific site might support a given species. We have not attempted to depict known localities or exact ranges for species, but instead opted to use counties as the basic unit of occurrence. To clarify the distribution of species inhabiting the Florida Keys, Monroe County was subdivided into mainland, Upper/Middle Keys, Lower Keys, islands west of Key West including the Marquesas Keys, and Dry Tortugas. Most counties indicated on maps are supported by confirmed specimens and observations. Some, however, are included based on probability of occurrence given the known range and habitat preferences of the animal. For sea turtles and birds, maps also highlight those counties where nesting may occur.

FNAI ranks indicate the global (G) and state (S) rarity of a species:

  1. 1: critically imperiled, or less than six occurrences
  2. 2: imperiled, or six to 20 occurrences
  3. 3: rare, restricted, or otherwise vulnerable to extinction
  4. 4: apparently secure
  5. 5: demonstrably secure

For example, a species with a rank of G5/S1 is globally secure but critically imperiled within Florida. A global rank with a "T" followed by a number indicates a subspecies or special population. Ranks are periodically updated as new information becomes available. For more information about the ranking system, contact the Florida Natural Areas Inventory at (850) 224-8207 or visit our website (

Federal (U.S.) and state (FL) statusesindicate a species' formal legal listing as Endangered, Threatened, or Species of Special Concern. Any given status is subject to change. For definitions of the categories and their regulatory implications, contact the following agencies:

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Color photographs (or drawings)are provided for each rare animal. In most cases, the photographs are of Florida specimens. Drawings were used to augment the photographs for some of the accounts and were used as a substitute when no photographs were available.

Descriptions are written with a minimum of technical language to make them easy to use by people from a wide range of backgrounds. A series of diagnostic characteristics is listed in order of their importance. Measurements are provided in English and metric units. A glossary of technical terms is provided at the end of the Guide.

Similar species are listed along with characteristics that distinguish each from the featured rare species. In most cases, these are limited to species that inhabit the same geographic area.

Habitatdescribes the vegetative or natural community types in which a species is likely to be observed. Simplified community names are used for ease of understanding by a wide audience. Scientific names are given for those plants that are key elements of the rare animal's habitat. Readers interested in technical names and detailed community descriptions are referred to the Guide to the Natural Communities of Florida (FNAI 1990) and Ecosystems of Florida (Myers and Ewel [eds.] 1990).

Seasonal occurrence describes periods of presence or activity as well as life-cycle information.

Florida distribution describes the species' general range in Florida, not just documented localities (see also Florida distribution map above).

ange-wide distribution summarizes the species' geographic occurrence throughout its entire range.

Conservation status offers information about the relative degree of protection the species has on current conservation lands, as well as threats to or status of the Florida population.

Protection and management recommendations summarize the actions needed to protect the species in Florida.

Selected references are the sources used in preparing the species account or that provide the reader with more extensive information. Complete citations are provided in the references section.

Further Resources

The rare animals included in this guide comprise only a small percentage of Florida's diverse fauna. Many other resources are available to assist the reader in identifying most of Florida's remaining, and generally more abundant, animals. We especially recommend the following, complete citations for which are provided in the reference section.

Dragonflies: Dunkle (1989, 2000)

Butterflies and Moths: Glassberg et al. (2000), Minno and Pierce (1999)

Fishes: Gilbert (ed.) (1992), Mettee et al. (1996), Page and Burr (1998), Walls (1976)

Amphibians and Reptiles: Ashton and Ashton (1988a, 1988b, 1991), Bartlett and Bartlett (1999), Conant and Collins (1991), Ernst et al. (1994), Moler (ed.) (1992), Petranka (1998), and Tenant (1997)

Birds: Dunn (1999), Peterson (1998), Pranty (1996), Robbins et al. (2001), Sibley (2000)

Mammals: Brown (1997), Humphrey (ed.) (1992), Whitaker (1996)