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The New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas Project

Atlas Handbook

Cover Type Group Codes
(formerly habitat codes)

Habitat is essential to breeding birds, and each species has a unique set of habitat requirements. Effective bird conservation relies on knowledge of these habitat requirements, so that suitable habitat can be provided for all species. The New Mexico Breeding Birds Atlas project provides a great opportunity to gather some of this critical information, while encouraging participants to cultivate a knowledge of bird-habitat associations—another valuable dimension to birding. Thus, atlas participants are requested to record on the field observation card a cover type group code for each species recorded within a block.

These data will be very useful for several reasons. It will add to our knowledge of the natural history of each of these species in New Mexico and will help planners and land managers assess the impacts of changing land management for each species. You don't need to be a botanist to record cover type information. Though the list is long, only a few of these cover types will probably occur on your block. Start with the most general category and narrow it down. Choose the cover type code that contains the majority of the plants listed.

For a given species, the code should refer to the habitat in which the highest evidence of breeding was attained. If you confirm a bird species, indicate the nesting cover type in the appropriate place on the field observation card. For species that you do not confirm, enter the cover type group(s) in which you observe the most activity. If you find a species in more than one cover type, squeeze onto the card all the codes that apply.

Below are cover type groups identified by the New Mexico Gap Analysis Project and the New Mexico Natural Heritage Program at the Biology Department of the University of New Mexico. The following table lists the groups and abbreviations for major vegetation types to be used while doing atlas work. The table below also lists the physiognomic type (Tundra, Forest, Woodland, Grassland, etc.) subdivided into cover type groups. Following each cover type group is a list of characteristic plant species that can help distinguish between similar cover types. When choosing the code for a given cover type, the characteristic plants list should be the dominant or most common species with in the physiognomic type. Additional vegetation information is available from your regional organizer.

On the same line as each physiognomic and cover type is the four-letter atlas code (abbreviation) to be used on the field observation card and other atlas observation forms. Use the code for the cover type when possible. Codes for the more general physiognomic type have been provided, but try to avoid using them.

Tundra						                   TUND
	Rocky Mountain Alpine Graminoid Tundra			           RMGT
			Sedge (Carex rupestris)
			Alpine sedge (Kobresia myosuroides)

	Rocky Mountain Alpine Forb Tundra			           RMFT
			Alpine avens (Geum rossii)
			Sierra Blanca Cinquefoil (Potentilla Sierrae-blancae)
			Nailwort (Paronychia pulvinata)
Forest								   FORE
	Subalpine Conifer Forest				           SACF
			Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii)
			Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa)

	Subalpine Broadleaf Forest					   SABF
			Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

	Rocky Mountain Upper Montane Conifer Forest			   UMCF
			Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
			White Fir (Abies concolor)
			Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

	Rocky Mountain Lower Montane Conifer Forest			   LMCF
			Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

	Madrean Lower Montane Conifer Forest				   MMCF
			Chihuahua Pine (Pinus leiophylla)
			Apache Pine (Pinus engelmannii)

Woodland                                                            WOOD
	Upper Montane Open Conifer Woodland				   MOCW
			Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata)
			Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)

	Rocky Mountain/Great Basin Closed Conifer Woodland		   GCCW
			Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis)

	Rocky Mountain/Great Basin Open Conifer Woodland (Savanna)	   GOCW
			One-seed Juniper (Juniperus monosperma)

	Madrean Closed Conifer Woodland					   MCCW
			Border Pinyon (Pinus discolor)
			Alligator-bark Juniper (Juniperus deppeana)

	Madrean Open Conifer Woodland					   MOCW
			Redberry Juniper (Juniperus erythrocarpa)

	Madrean Closed Oak Woodland					   MCOW
			Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides)
			Netleaf Oak (Quercus rugosa)

	Madrean Open Oak Woodland (Encinal)				   MOOW
			Gray Oak (Quercus grisea)
			Arizona White Oak (Quercus arizonica)
			Emory Oak (Quercus emoryi)

Shrubland							   SHRU
	Rocky Mountain Montane Deciduous Scrub				   RMDS
			Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus)
			Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii)
			Wavyleaf Oak (Quercus undulata)

	Broadleaf Evergreen Interior Chaparral				   BEIS
			Scrub Live Oak (Quercus turbinella)
			Toumey Oak (Quercus toumeyi)
			Point-leaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens)

	Plains-Mesa Broadleaf Sand-Scrub				   BLSS
			Shinoak (Quercus havardii)

	Plains-Mesa Microphyllous Sand-Scrub				   MPSS
			Sand Sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia)
			Indigobush (Psorthamnus scoparius)

	Great Basin Microphyllous Desert Scrub				   MPDS
			Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
			Black Sage (Artemisia nova)
			Bigelow Sage (Artemisia begelovii)

	Great Basin Broadleaf Deciduous Desert Scrub			   BDDS
			Fourwing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens)
			Shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia)
			Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
			Winterfat (Eurotia lanata)

	Chihuahuan Broadleaf Evergreen Desert Scrub			   CBES
			Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata)

	Chihuahuan Broadleaf Deciduous Desert Scrub			   CBDS
			Tarbush (Flourensia cernua)
			Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
			Whitethorn (Acacia constricta, A. neovernicosa)
			Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Grassland							   GRAS
	Rocky Mountain Subalpine Grassland				   RMSG
			Thurber Fescue (Festuca thurberi)
			Mixed Sedge (Carex Spp.)

	Rocky Mountain Montane Grassland				   RMMG
			Arizona Fescue (Festuca arizonica)
			Mountain Muhly (Muhlenbergia montana)

	Short Grass Steppe						   SGSG
			Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
			Hairy Grama (Bouteloua hirsuta)

	Mid-Grass Prairie						   MGPG
			Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
			New Mexico Needlegrass (Stipa neomexicana)
			Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii)
			Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
			Sand Dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus)

	Tall Grass Prairie						   TGPG
			Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
			Sand Bluestem (Andropogon hallii)

	Great Basin Foothill-Piedmont Grassland				   GBFG
			Galleta (Hilaria jamesii)
			Indian Ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides)

	Great Basin Lowland/Swale Grassland				   GBLG
			Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)

	Chihuahuan Foothill-Piedmont Desert Grassland			   CDFG
			Black Grama (Bouteloua eriopoda)
			Dropseed (Sporobolus flexuosus)

	Chihuahuan Lowland/Swale Desert Grassland			   CDLG
			Tobosa (Hilaria mutica)
			Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii)
			Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata)
			Vine Mesquite Grass (Panicum obtusum)

Palustrine Forested, Shrub & Emergent Wetlands			   WETL
	Rocky Mountain Forested Wetlands				   RMFW
			Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia)
			Boxelder (Acer negundo)
			Alder (Alnus oblongifolia, A. tenuifolia)

	Rocky Mountain Montane Broadleaf Shrub Wetlands			   RMSW
			Peachleaf Willow (Salix amygdaloides)
			Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana)
			Bluestem Willow (Salix irrorata)

	Southwest & Plains Forested Wetland				   WPFW
			Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii)
			Plains Cottonwood (Populus sargentii)
			Arizona Walnut (Juglans major)
			Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata)
			Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

	Southwest & Plains Shrub Wetland				   WPSW
			Coyote Willow (Salix exigua)
			Seepwillow (Baccharis glutinosa)
			Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

	Southwestern Deciduous Shrub Arroyo Riparian			   DSAR
			Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa)
			Brickelbush (Brickelia lacinata)
			Black Greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus)
			Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearifolia)
			Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens)

	Graminoid Wetlands						   PEGW
			Baltic Rush (Juncus balticus)
			American Bulrush (Scirpus americana)
			Water Sedge (Carex aquatilis)
			Cattail (Typha latafolia)

Other Land Types						   OTHE

Agriculture	Dryland Agriculture					   DRAG
		Irrigated Agriculture					   IRAG

Barren		Mine/Quarries						   MINE
		Rock Outcrop						   ROCK

Urban		Urban Barren						   URBA
		Urban Vegetated						   URVE
		Urban Park					           URPA

Water		Riverine/Lacustrine					   RIVE
		Basin/Playa						   PLAY

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