Species Names Help

Searching for Species Names

Every time you submit a wildlife sighting, you will need to select a Species - you can do so by typing a name into the search box and selecting a species from the dropdown list. You can use either common (English) names or scientific names as recognised by the National Biodiversity Network (NBN).

Bear in mind that the search term must start with the beginning of the name (e.g. to search for ‘Common Frog’ you must begin with ‘Common’). If you aren’t sure of the exact name, start your search term with a ‘*’ which acts as a wildcard (e.g. searching for ‘*frog’ will give you a list of all species with ‘frog’ in the name). If it helps, you might want to try searching for your species on the NBN Atlas first to ensure you are entering the correct name. If you aren’t sure of the exact species, you can enter a higher taxon such as genus, family or order. Contact the Wildlife Information Service if you are unsure.

Try to ensure your search term contains more than four letters. Any searches containing three or four letters will bring up scientific names, looking for the first two letters of the genus and the first one or two letters of the species name (e.g. ‘hyno’ will give you ‘Hyacinthoides non-scripta’, the bluebell). This makes it easier for experienced recorders to enter scientific names, but can bring up some strange results for everyone else!

Finally, be aware that some species share the same common name (e.g. ‘Magpie’ can be a bird or a moth). Check the description in the dropdown list to ensure you have the right one, and also check the scientific name if you can.

Marine Mammal Species Names

Recording whales, dolphins and porpoise (collectively called cetaceans) can be difficult, as you might only get a fleeting glimpse as they surface to breath. 

We ask everyone to only enter species sightings when you are confident of the ID, we are on hand to help confirm identification so please do contact  our Wildlife Information Service via email or telephone (01872) 273939 ext 250 if you would like some expert help. 

Recording Cetaceans on ORKS when you're not sure of the species. Unfortunately, at the moment it does require a little understanding of the taxonomy of marine mammals. Unfortunately, at the moment to enter a marine mammal sighting for a 'Dolphin' or 'Whale' sighting when we are unsure of the species you will have to use the scientific terms. We are working to make this easier, but as we use the national species list this will take time.


Please see the list below for the appropriate term which you can Copy and Paste into the ORKS form. 

  • You saw a cetacean but your not sure if you saw a whale, dolphin or porpoise - Cetartiodactyla
  • You're sure you saw a dolphin, and not a whale or porpoise - Delphinidae
  • You're sure you saw a baleen whale - Mysticeti *

* Whales are more complicated, as some species which are commonly called 'whales' are in fact in the dolphin family. A prime example of this is the Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) or Long Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas). Mysticeti only includes baleen whales, such as Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and similar.    If in doubt please use Cetartiodactyla