Audubon Adventures

NATURALIST'S GLOSSARY

A | B | C| D | E | F| G | H | I | J | K | L| M | N | O| P | Q | R | S | T | U| V | W | X | Y | Z



 

A

abdomen: the back (last) segment of an insect’s body.
adapt: to develop characteristics or behaviors that make it easier to survive in a particular habitat.
adaptable: able to change behavior to suit new conditions.

adaptation: a characteristic or behavior that makes it easier to survive in a particular habitat.
adhesive: something that makes things stick together.
adobe: building material made of sun-dried earth and straw
advocate (n.): someone who supports an idea, plan, or action.
aerie: the nest of a bird, such as an eagle, built high in a tree or on a cliff or building.
aggressive: behaving fiercely or in a threatening way.
algae (pl. of alga): certain kinds of plants that do not have roots or stems and usually grow in water.
amphibian: one of a class of cold-blooded animals—including frogs, toads, and salamanders—that live in water and breathe with gills when young, then develop lungs and live on land as adults.
amphipod: one of a group of small sea creatures with hard body coverings, related to shrimps, crabs, and lobsters.
ancestor: a member of a family who lived a long time ago.
antennae (pl. of antenna): the long “feelers” on the head of an insect or other animal.
aphid: a tiny insect that feeds on the juices of plants.
aquifer: an underground space filled with fresh water.
architect: a person who designs buildings.
arid: dry; receiving little or no rain.
aridland: a dry area that receives only a small amount of rain or snow.
atmosphere: the mixture of gases that surrounds Earth.
audit: the process of systematically examining or reviewing something.

 

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B

bacteria: microscopic organisms that live in soil, water, organic matter, or the bodies of plants and animals.
baleen: bony plates in the mouths of certain whale species used to filter food out of water.
ban (v): to forbid; to make something against the law.
barb: a sharp, pointed part of something.
barnacle: a small shellfish that attaches itself to hard surfaces, such as rocks and boats.
beak: the hard, horny part of a bird’s mouth; also called bill.
beneficial: helpful; having a good effect on a place or situation.
biodiversity: a condition in nature in which many different species live in an area.
biologist:a scientists who studies living things.
biology: the science that deals with the study of living things.
biomass: all living material in a habitat.
biome: a very large area characterized by a common type of ecological community, such as a grassland or forest.
biomimicry: copying designs and processes from nature.
bird of prey: a bird that hunts and eats other animals
bird steward: a person who protects birds in their natural environment.
breed: to mate and produce offspring.
breeding ground:the area where migratory birds and other animals go to breed and raise their young.
breeding range: the entire area in which migratory birds and other animals breed and raise their young; breeding ground.
brood chamber: the space built by female bees in which to lay their eggs. Also called a “bee pot.”
burrow: a tunnel or hole in the ground made by an animal.

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C

calcium: a chemical element that is found in teeth and bones.
camouflage: coloring and patterns that make an animal or object blend in with its surroundings.
canopy: the highest part of a forest where the tallest trees form a sheltering cover.
carbon dioxide: a gas that is a mixture of carbon and oxygen. People and animals breathe carbon dioxide out; trees and other plants absorb it.
carbon footprint: the negative impact something or someone has on the environment, based on the amount of carbon emitted from normal activities.
caribou: a large animal of the deer family found in cold northern regions.
carnivore: an animal that eats meat.
caterpillar: the wormlike stage in the life cycle of a butterfly or other insect; pupa.
cattail: a tall, thin marsh plant with narrow leaves and brown, fuzzy pods at the top.
cavity: a hole or hollow space in something solid, such as a tooth or a tree.
cavity-nester: a bird that lays its eggs in a hole in a tree or a nestbox.
cells: the microscopic units that are the basic building blocks of living things.
characteristic: a quality or feature.
chrysalis: the stage in the life cycle of a butterfly between caterpillar and adult; also called pupa.
citizen science: activity in which people not trained as scientists help collect scientific information or take part in other projects that help scientists.
citizen scientist: a person not trained as a scientist but who helps collect scientific information or takes part in activities that help scientists.
clearcutting: cutting down all the trees in an area.
climate: the usual weather of a place.
climate change: a shift in Earth’s weather patterns relative to long-term average conditions; effects include rising temperatures and and changing weather patterns such as increased frequency of intense rainfall events or declining snowfall. See global warming.
coal: a shiny black mineral formed from the remains of ancient plants; burned as a source of energy; a fossil fuel.
coastal marsh: a low, wet area near the ocean.
colonize: to move into a new area and stay there.
colony: a large group of animals living together.
compact fluorescent bulb (CFL): a type of light bulb that lasts longer and uses less energy than a “regular” light bulb.
compass: an instrument for determining directions.
compete: to try to get something that others are also trying to get.
compost: a mixture of decayed organic matter that adds nutrients to soil.
compound: having two or more parts.
confluence: the place where two or more rivers or streams meet and flow together.
conservation: the process of protecting and maintaining natural places.
conserve: to protect from loss or overuse.
course: the route for getting from one place to another.
crepuscular: active mainly at twilight.
crest: a tuft of feathers that stands up on top of a bird’s head.
crop: a plant, such as corn or apples, that is grown in large quantities to be used for food.
cycle: a series of things that is repeated regularly, like the seasons of the year.

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D

dam: something built across a river or stream to hold back flowing water.
data: information; facts.
DDT: a pesticide used to kill insects that damage crops, which had harmful effects on birds and other animals and was banned in the U.S. in 1973.
decline: to go down or decrease.
decomposers: organisms that cause decay or break down the bodies of dead plants and animals into components that can be reused in the ecosystem.
decay: to rot.
deciduous: the word for trees that lose all of their leaves in one season.
decompose: to rot or break down.
decoy: a carved model of a bird used to attract other birds.
defend: to protect from harm.
deformed: changed from natural appearance by negative influences such as pollution or stress; misshapen.
delta: land formed by mud and sand deposited by a river where the river meets the sea.
depression: a hollowed-out place.
descendant: child or offspring.
desert: a habitat where there is very little rain and few plants grow.
destination: the place a person, animal, or vehicle is traveling to.
detect:to notice or find something.
distraction: activity that takes attention away from something.
diurnal: active during the day.
diversity: the condition of having many different kinds of things, such as people, plants, and animals.
documentary: a movie that shows real people in real situations.
dormant: in an inactive state for a period of time.
drone: a male bee who mates with the queen bee.
drought: a long period during which there is little or no rain or snow.

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E

ecologist: a scientist who studies the relationship between plants, animals, and their environment.
ecology: science that deals with living things and their environments.
ecosystem: a community of plants and animals interacting with each other and their environment.
eider: a large duck found in northern coastal regions.
electrical current: the flow of electricity through wires.
embryo: the early stage in the growth of a human or animal.
emerge: to come out of something.
endangered: at risk for becoming extinct.
Endangered Species List: a list put together by the U.S. government of animals and plants that need to be protected because they are at risk of becoming extinct without protection.
energy: the ability of something to do work; the power (for example, from coal or electricity) that makes machines work.
environment: the natural world—land, sea, and air; all the things that influence the lives of living things.
erosion: the process of washing or wearing away, such as the effect of wind and rain on soil.
estuary: where a river meets the sea, mixing fresh water and salt water.
evergreen: the word for trees whose leaves stay green throughout the year.
evolve: to change gradually over time in response to the environment.
exhale: to breathe out.
experience: knowledge or skill gained from doing something.
exterminate: to kill off a population of living things.
extinct: no longer living.
extinction: the condition in which an animal or plant has died out completely, so that there are no living examples.

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F

fatal: causing death.
fertilization: the process of combining pollen from one flower with cells of another flower, allowing the flower to make seeds.
field guide: a book that is used to identify plants, animals, minerals, and other things in their natural environment.
field mark: a characteristic that helps identify a bird, such as color, color pattern, size, tail shape, leg length, size and shape of beak, kind of feet, and so on.
fin: a part of a fish’s body that it uses for swimming and steering.
flock: a group of animals, such as birds or sheep.
floodplain: the low flatlands along a river.
flyway: the route birds follow as they migrate.
food chain: the relationships among a group of living things based on the flow of energy from food.
forage (v.): to search for food.
forb: a plant that grows among grasses.
fossil: the remains or imprint of an organism that lived in the distant past, usually preserved in Earth’s crust.
fossil fuel: fuel, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, made from the remains, found deep inside Earth, of plants and animals that lived in the distant past.
fragment: a piece that is broken off from something bigger.
fragmentation: the process of breaking something into smaller pieces.
fresh water: the part of the Earth’s water supply that is not salty, such as the water in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.
fungi: plural of fungus, a type of plant, such as a mushroom, that has no leaves, flowers, or roots.

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G

generator: a machine that turns mechanical energy (such as the turning of a turbine) into electrical energy.
generation: group of individuals living within the same time frame.
geothermal energy: energy produced by tapping the heat that occurs naturally deep inside Earth.
geyser: a natural opening in the ground through which hot water or steam shoots out with force.
gizzard: part of a bird’s digestive system that grinds down food.
glacier: a large body of ice that moves slowly over land.
global climate change: the long-term change in weather patterns all over the world.
global warming: a type of climate change by which temperatures on Earth are rising slowly as a result of the build-up of carbon dioxide and other gases in the
atmosphere, which in turn is caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
gopher tortoise: a large, land-living turtle that is native to the southeastern U.S.
GPS: Global Positioning System; a system for using satellite signals to determine the location of something on Earth’s surface.
grant (n.): money given for a particular purpose.
grass: a group of plants with long, thin, erect leaves.
grassland: a large, open, usually flat area covered with grasses and having few trees.
gravity: the force that pushes down on Earth and keeps things from floating up into the air.
“green”: a term used to describe products and actions that do not harm the environment.
greenhouse: a building designed to control light and heat in order to grow and protect plants.
greenhouse gas: a gas, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and methane, that traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere.
groundwater: water that is underground in the soil or in spaces in and between rocks.

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H

habitat: a place in which an organism is normally able to find the resources it needs for survival.
hatchling: an animal recently hatched from an egg.
hazard: something that is dangerous.
headwaters: the place where a river begins.
herbaceous layer: the layer above the forest floor, where ferns, grasses, and other plants grow.
herbicide: a chemical used to kill unwanted plants.
herbivore: an animal that eats plants and plant material.
hibernate: to spend the cold months in an inactive or dormant state.
hive: a structure, built by bees or by beekeepers, in which large numbers of bees live and make honey.
host plant: a plant that provides necessary food and other resources for certain insects or other organisms.
hot spring: a natural body of water that is heated deep inside Earth.
hover: to remain in one place in the air.
hyperphagia: in animals, eating large amounts of food in order to prepare for a time of going without food.

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I

icecap: an area that is always covered by ice and snow.
ice floe: a sheet or mass of floating ice.
immigrant: a person who leaves one country to live permanently in another country.
Important Bird Area (IBA): a program sponsored by organizations around the world to identify and conserve areas that are vital to birds and other organisms.
inhale: to breathe in.
insect: a class of animals that have six legs, three main body parts, two antennae, wings, a hard outer covering, and no backbone.
instinct: the natural behavior of an animal in response to environmental factors or other influences.
insulation: something that protects against heat or cold.
interdependent: depending on or needing each other.
invasive: regarding plants, coming from the outside and tending to spread and crowd out native plants.
invasive species: nonnative plants or animals that tend to spread or multiply in a way that crowds out or kills native species.
invertebrate: an animal that does not have a backbone, such as an insect, a crustacean, or a worm.

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J


 

K

keystone species: an animal species that, when it and its habitat are protected, has the effect of protecting other organisms that share its habitat.
krill: small shrimp-like creatures that are a major source of food for some whales.

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L

landfill: an area where garbage is collected and covered by a layer of earth.
landmark: an easily seen object that can be used to identify a particular place or route.
landscape: a large outdoor area with plantings and natural features.
lagoon: a shallow area of water that is separated from the sea by a narrow piece of land.
larva (s. of larvae): the wormlike stage in the metamorphosis of a moth or other insect that hatches from the adult’s eggs; caterpillar.
leaf litter: the layer of fallen leaves, twigs, and other natural organic matter that covers the floor of a forest.
life cycle: the series of changes that a living thing goes through from birth to death.
limpet: a kind of mollusk that clings tightly to rocks and other hard surfaces.
locomotion: the act of moving from one place to another.
locust: a type of migratory grasshopper.

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M

magnetic field: the area around a magnet that attracts metals.
magnetism: the effect that occurs in a magnetic field when metals are attracted to one another.
mammal: one of a class of animals that are warm-blooded and have a backbone and hair.
mangrove: a tropical tree or shrub that grows in coastal water or wetlands with many roots that trap soil and eventually form land.
manta ray: a kind of fish that has broad fins that look like wings.
marathon (adj.):long-distance.
marine: living in or related to the sea.
marsh: an area where the land is low and wet.
mate (v.): to breed in order to make offspring.

mature: fully developed; full-grown.
microhabitat: a very small environment in which an organism lives its life.
microscopic: a word for something that is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope.
migrant: an animal or person that migrates.
migrate: to relocate from one habitat to another in a regular cycle.
migration: the process of relocating from one habitat to another in a regular cycle.
migratory: adjective to describe a bird or other animal that migrates.
mimic: one who imitates another.
milkweed: a type of plant; the host plant for monarch butterflies.
mollusk: an animal, such as a snail or clam, with a soft body usually enclosed in a hard shell.
monitor: to keep track of.
mouth: where a river ends at the ocean or sea.
mudflat: an area of land just below the surface of water or that is sometimes covered and sometimes not covered as the water level rises and falls.
muskox: a large shaggy-coated wild ox found in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
mussel: a kind of mollusk with a two-part shell.

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N

nape: the back of the neck.
native: originally from a particular place, rather than coming from or being brought from somewhere else.
natural gas: a gas that formed naturally deep below Earth’s surface, and used as a source of energy; a fossil fuel.
natural resource: something that occurs in nature and can be used for a beneficial or helpful purpose.
navigate: to find the way from one place to another.
natural resource: something—such was water, trees, minerals—that is part of nature and that is useful to people.
naturalist: a person who is interested in, observes, and values nature.
navigation: the process of finding the way from one place to another.
nectar: a sweet liquid made by some flowers.
neotropical migrant: a bird that breeds in North America during the spring and summer and then migrates to Mexico, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean islands for the winter.
nesting grounds: the region where migratory birds go to breed and raise their young; also called breeding grounds.
nocturnal: active at night.
nonnative: not naturally from a particular place.
nonrenewable: not able to be replaced.
nourishment: food that keeps a plant or animal healthy and able to grow.
nurture: to take care of and encourage growth.
nutrient: something such as a vitamin or mineral needed by living things to grow and stay healthy.
nutritious: describing food that helps a body grow and stay healthy and strong.

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O

ocelli (pl. of ocellus): simple (rather than compound) eyes.
offspring: babies; young.
oil: a thick, greasy substance formed deep below Earth’s surface from decomposing ancient plants; used as a source of energy—for example, heating oil, gasoline; a fossil fuel.
old-growth forest: a forest that has not been changed by people.
omnivore: an animal that eats many different kinds of foods, rather than just plants (herbivore) or just other animals (carnivore).
orca: a species of whale that is black-and-white and kills animals such as seals for food; also called a killer whale.
organic: grown or raised without the use of pesticides and other chemicals.
organism: a living plant or animal.
orient (v.): to figure out where one is in relation to one’s surroundings.
orientation: the process of figuring out where one is in relation to other things.
overfishing: catching so many fish that the population of fish may not recover.
overwinter: to spend the winter.
owl pellet: the parts of an animal that an owl has eaten that are undigestible and than the owl coughs up as a bundle of fur and bones.
owlet: a young owl.
oxygen: an gas found in air that is necessary for people and animals to breathe.
oyamel fir tree: a type of evergreen tree native to the mountains of Mexico.

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P

Pampas: an area of grassland in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
parasitic: word for an animal or plant that lives or grows on another animal or plant and harms it.
parasite: an animal or plant that lives or grows on another animal or plant and harms it.
perceive: to become aware of something through one’s senses.
perennial: term for plants that live through all seasons of the year.
permafrost: a layer of soil that is always frozen in cold regions of the world.
pest: an insect or other organism that interferes with human activity, such as damaging crops.
pesticide: a chemical used to kill organisms that are considered pests, such as some insects.
photosynthesis: the process in which plants use the Sun’s energy to turn water and carbon dioxide into sugars they need to grow.
pod: a group of whales that generally stays together.
pollen: the powdery material produced by plants that is transferred from flower to flower, making it possible for plants to reproduce.
pollinate: to carry pollen from one flower to another, making it possible for plants to reproduce.
pollination: the process of transferring pollen from one flower to another, making fertilization and reproduction possible.
pollinator: an organism, such as an insect or a bird, that transfers pollen from one plant to another.
pollutant: a harmful substance that gets into air, water, and soil because of human activities.
pollute: to add a harmful substance to something, such as air or water.
pollution: harmful substances (solid, liquid, gas) that get into air, water, and soil because of human activities.
population: a group of one type of living things in a particular area.
pore: a tiny hole or opening in the surface of something, such as skin or a leaf.
prairie: grassland; a large, mostly flat area covered with grasses and having few trees.
precipitation: water that has evaporated and then falls from the sky in the form of rain, hail, sleet, or snow.
predator: an animal that hunts other animals for food.
preserve: to protect something so that it stays in its original state.
prey: an animal that is hunted by another animal for food.
probe (v.): to explore or examine something using a tool or a body part, such as a bird’s beak.
protein: a substance found in foods that the bodies of people and animals need to grow.
pulp: a soft, spongy material made from a mixture of liquid and something else such as paper.
pupa (s. of pupae): the stage in a butterfly’s life cycle during which it changes from a caterpillar to an adult; also called chrysalis.

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R

radiate: to spread outward.
rain garden: a garden containing native plants, designed to catch or slow down rainwater runoff, helping to filter out pollutants before they reach rivers and other bodies of water.
range: the area over which a bird or other animal normally lives its life.
ranger: a person in charge of a park, forest, or other natural area.
raptor: a type of bird, such as an eagle or a hawk, that has a strong beak and sharp talons for catching live prey.
recycle: to reuse.
refine: to change oil and other natural resources into a form that is usable for energy production.
reflex: an automatic action that happens without the control of a person or animal.
refuge: a safe place.
renewable: able to be replaced.
reproduction: the process in which plants and animals make more of their kind.
reptile: a class of cold-blooded animals—including snakes, turtles, lizards, and alligators—that have no legs or short legs and a body covered in scales or bony plates.
reserve (n.): something set aside for the future.
restore: to bring back or return to an original condition.
riparian: a term for the area alongside a river.
rodent: a small mammal such as a mouse, rat, squirrel, or vole, that has sharp front teeth.
rookery: a place where bird’s gather to nest and raise their young.
roost (v., n.): for birds, to settle down to rest or sleep; a place where birds settle down to rest or sleep.
runoff: material carried by rainwater into rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

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S

sagebrush: a shrub that grows in dry areas of the western United States (U.S. for consistency).
salt water: the part of Earth’s water supply that is naturally salty, such as the water in oceans.
saltwater bay: an area of an ocean or sea that is partially surrounded by land.
sanctuary: a natural place where birds and other animals are protected.
scrape: a bird’s nest that is a hollowed-out place in the sand.
scrubland: a type of habitat in Florida where stubby oak trees and bushes grow in dry white sand.
sea anemone: a kind of sea creature that looks like a flower and has stinging tentacles.
seabird: a bird that spends much of its life in or near the sea.
seastar: a sea creature with five or more arms; also called starfish.
secchi disk: a black and white disk that is lowered into a body of water to determine how clear or clean the water is.
sensor: a tool or instrument used to sense, or “feel,” something.
sensory: relating to information received from the physical senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing, or smell.
sewage: liquid and solid waste from homes and businesses that is carried away in sewers and drains.
shorebird: a bird that lives in open areas of beaches, grasslands, wetlands, and tundra; examples of shorebirds include oystercatchers, plovers, and sandpipers.
shrub: a low-growing plant with woody stems.
silt: very small particles of rock carried by a river that can settle and build up on the bottom of the river.
sod: the top layer of soil and the grass attached to it.
solar: relating to the sun.
solar cell: a device used to turn the Sun’s heat and light into a power source.
solar panel: a group of solar cells combined to collect the Sun’s energy to produce power.
solar power: power whose source is the Sun’s heat and light.
solitary: living alone rather than in a group.
songbird: a bird that is able to produce a complex series of sounds called a song, used to communicate with other birds.
species: a group of plants or animals that share certain characteristics and are able to breed and reproduce their own kind.
stalk: to hunt or track something while trying not to be noticed.
steward: caretaker.
stopover: a place where migratory animals spend time during their migration.
submerge: to put under water.
sugar: a substance that can be used by living things as a source of food energy.
survive: to continue to live.
sustainable: able to be done without harming the environment or using up resources.
swamp: an area covered with water where trees and other woody plants grow.
swarm: a large group of flying insects.

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T

talon: the sharp claw of a bird of prey
taproot: the main root of a plant that grows vertically down into the soil.
theory: an explanation of something based on analysis of available facts and observations.
thermals: currents or waves of warm air that rise up from the ground.
thorax: the middle section of the body of an insect.
threat: something that could cause injury, damage, or death.
threatened: is at risk for becoming endangered.
thrive: to live and grow well.
tidepool: a pool of water at the shore left behind when the tide goes out.
tissue: a mass of similar kinds of cells that form the organs and other parts of living things.
torpor: a sleeplike state.
toxic: containing poisonous material that can cause illness or death.
transmitter: a device used to send out radio or television signals.
trill: a high-pitched sound that is repeated rapidly.
tropical: related to an area where the climate is warm or hot most of the year.
tropical forest: a forest that grows in an area of Earth where the climate is warm or hot most of the year.
tropics: the area of Earth where the climate is warm or hot most of the year.
tuft: a small bunch of feathers, hairs, grass, etc.
tundra: a level or rolling treeless area in a cold region, usually covered by permafrost; tundra plants include mosses, lichens, and small shrubs.
turbine: a kind of engine that is powered by the turning of blades or a wheel by wind, water, or steam.

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U

ultraviolet: term for a type of light that cannot be seen by the human eye.
understory: in a forest, the space between the floor and the canopy where small trees and bushes grow.
unspoiled: in a natural, healthy state.

urban: in a city; relating to the characteristics of a city.

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V

“vampire” appliance:an appliance that continues to use energy when it is plugged in but not turned on.
vegetarian: an animal that eats only plant matter. vertebrate: an animal that has a backbone.

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W

water treatment plant: a place that receives water from homes and businesses and treats it with chemicals and other processes to clean it before releasing it to a lake, river, or other body of water.
waterbird: a bird that swims or wades in water.
waterfowl: swimming birds, such as ducks and geese.
watershed: the entire area from which water drains into a particular river, lake, or other body of water.
weather: the current conditions of the atmosphere at a particular time.
weed: a plant that grows where it is not wanted.
wetland: an area, such as a swamp, marsh, or lake, that is sometimes or always covered with water or where the soil is always saturated.
whetstone: a stone used for sharpening knives.
wildlife: wild animals living in nature.
wind turbine: a tall structure with large blades that are turned by the wind in order to power an engine that creates electricity.
wintering grounds: the area where an animal that migrates spends the part of the year when it is not breeding and raising young.

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