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About Zipcode Zoo

The Concept aspires to be a useful Field Guide to plants and animals of the world. Often, to be useful, a field guide must have a sense of where you are and what might be found there. is working toward being able to provide information about the animals of a specific area. We will succeed when you can make a list all species that might be found in any specific spot in the world, without strays that could not be found there. Ideally, such lists would be sensitive to the probability of being found in a given spot, not merely whether it might/might not be there. For migratory birds, such lists would be sensitive to the time of year as well. We have some listing capability here, but the quality of our species distribution data must still be improved.

We want to build an online field guide suited for the amateur naturalist. Here are highlights of what we have done so far:

We have a secret motive: to supplement the diminished outdoor experiences of modern society. Adults everywhere seem to be less able to make time to hike and camp and explore. Kids have less time for soccer or the playground, and are increasingly being told that wandering in the woods is dangerous. Besides, in many areas the nearby woods is now a shopping center. We don't want to be a substitute for getting outdoors, but if amateur naturalists are already indoors and at a computer, we want to be useful.

We can do better. In the next year, our efforts will include:

Aren't there sites that do this already? In fact, there are many terrific wildlife sites. Some of our favorites include:

We won't be better than the many great wildlife sites. But we will likely be different. We will remember that every species has its place, and that place might or might not happen to be where you are. And we will try to remember what it was like to be 8 years old, and trying to pronounce Latin names and learn about wildlife from the books written by grownups for no one in particular.

Behind the Scenes is a project of the BayScience Foundation, Inc., a Non-Profit Private Operating Foundation, a 501(c)(3) under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. No donations are sought by the Foundation -- it lives on donations from David Stang and his wife. It is an operating foundation, meaning that it does something with its money, rather than simply dispensing it to others. For Stang, the Foundation is a labor of love -- he draws no salary.

If you wish to contact us, write


Our software for zooming and panning large images: uses software developed and licensed by the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) through the GeoVue research node of the ESRC National Center for e-Social Science (NCeSS).

ZipcodeZoo Tips & Tricks

  • There are many books to assist in the task of identification, but most cover species of a wide geographic range -- "Birds of America" -- even though most species occur in smaller geographic ranges. If you are trying to identify something you have just seen, the grand book of everything is too much. Too much information can be cumbersome. For identification, a good field guide could be localized to your back yard.
  • There are many species that look the same, and can be distinguished only by genetic analysis or by knowing where they were found. If your Field Guide contains many finches or salamanders that could not possibly be found in your back yard, it increases your chance of a misidentification. Too much information can sometimes mislead.
  • We've added information on species from around the world. Zipcode Zoo is not just for Americans (and more than half our visitors don't live in the land of zipcodes.)
  • We've been gathering field observations -- so far -- and mapping them with the help of Google, to help you see exactly where a plant or animal has been reported.
  • Finding just the right species in all of this can be like finding a needle in a haystack. A Proximity Lister and a Region Lister will help you find plants or animals in a geographic area of interest. PlantFinder offers 19 criteria to narrow your selection of plants. PlantFinder's database currently includes 1,555,827 attributes for 209,411 of the 1,105,405 plants on this site. BirdFinder uses location and 102,204 attributes for 4,753 birds.

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