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Species & Vegetation - Species Explorer

About CDFW Species

California's Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) collects data about species in California. Data collection through surveys, monitoring studies, restoration projects, and wildlife incidents all require reference to the involved species. It has been a challenge to provide a consistent single list of species to data collectors in our state, so the department has synthesized an all-inclusive California species list. This approach gives us the ability to connect related data that refer to the same species even if there are issues with outdated alternate scientific names, or common names. It provides a common mapping to species codes across many systems for enhanced cross reference. It creates a standard for referencing species in new data collection applications.

The CDFW Species List is a compilation of species names from several different data sources. For species supplied by two or more sources, we use intelligent automated software to match organism names and assign them to the same TaxonID. The primary Scientific and Common names displayed are based on a ranking of which data source is more authoritative as determined by the CDFW Biogeographic Data Branch biologists. The names supplied by the less authoritative sources are displayed in Alternate Names (scientific and common) and are searchable. The results of the automated matching is not reviewed by biologists so it is, of necessity, very conservative in determining matches. This results in a single organism having two different TaxonIDs if there was no straightforward name match possible. Our intentions are to create the most complete list of species found in California from any source. We include names for species with or without legal status for the purpose of data collection applications. Species status information comes live from the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) and is available in the Species Explorer on the Species Details page for only those species found in that system.

We hope to help ensure that the data collected and analyzed by CDFW personnel are less redundant, more standardized, and better organized for:

  • Viewing related documents
  • Reporting
  • Analyzing data across multiple projects
  • Finding all occurrences of species in specific areas of California

Your feedback  is welcomed.

Browse species from the highest level categories to the specific taxon or taxon subgroup. Drill down through a general category, and taxonomic classification to narrow your browsing. Information, photos and documents associated with a particular species are provided in an information (details) page.

Search species by entering search terms and optionally limiting your search to a broad category of species or those species that are associated with a particular application. Search results are ranked by how closely they match the search terms and provide access to documents, details, and administrative tools if available to the user.

Assembling The List

For animal species names, we used the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships (CWHR) database, NatureServe, CDFW Fisheries data and Inland Fishes of California by Peter B. Moyle. For plant names we used the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) and the Jepson Herbarium database at UC Berkeley. The list includes species known to occur in California and those known to occur in the states that border California. Therefore, not all of the species on this list will be found in California. Marine species and invasive species currently have very limited representation on this list.

What Does A TaxonID Represent?

Each taxon or taxon subgroup with a legal status (i.e. a Distinct Population Segment (DPS), Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) or population), is given a unique CDFW identifier, the TaxonID. A TaxonID can also be assigned to represent a general taxon such as “Unidentified Shorebird” that may be required for an application collecting data.


The scientific and common names on this species list are assembled automatically and the responsibility for their accuracy belongs to their data source (shown on the Species Detail page). Therefore:

  • Recent taxonomic changes may not be reflected on this list.
  • The same species may have more than one entry on this list under different names.
  • The Status field may be blank for species that are actually listed, and recent status changes may not be reflected on this list.
  • The details section may not be complete.
  • There may be duplications of entries on this list.