Skip to main content

About Our Data

What We Track

Biotics contains spatial & tabular records for the following features in Illinois:

  • Endangered and threatened animals and plants: All animal and plant species that are listed as state or federally endangered or threatened.

    • Birds: Many listed birds observed in IL are migrants passing through an area. We only track sightings with evidence of breeding (nest with eggs, adult breeding/nesting behavior, juveniles present, etc.). We do not track birds perched on a tree, flying in the air, or feeding unless other evidence of breeding is witnessed. We also track booming grounds for greater prairie-chickens and wintering records for northern harriers & short-eared owls.

  • Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) sites: A comprehensive, state-wide inventory of significant natural features in Illinois.

  • Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) programs: Lands enrolled in dedicated Nature Preserves, registered Land and Water Reserves, and Natural Heritage Landmarks.

  • Bald eagles: Active bald eagle nests. Though no longer a listed species, the bald eagle is still protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

  • High-quality natural communities: High-quality natural communities as defined by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI).

  • Geological features: Noteworthy examples of geological features as defined by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory.

  • Unusual concentration of animals & plants: Certain types of animal and plant aggregations, such as colonial bird rookeries, relic plant communities, high diversity mussel areas, and winter bald eagle roosts are tracked regardless of the legal status of the species that comprise them. The tendency to aggregate makes these concentrations vulnerable because a single catastrophic event could result in the loss of many individuals.

Where We Get Our Data

Data are compiled from a variety of sources including surveys by IDNR biologists and contractors, other state and federal government agencies, scientists and species experts, consultants, researchers, and accomplished naturalists. It is also derived from published and unpublished literature and herbaria and museum collections.

Data Updates

Biotics is continuously updated as new data are obtained, including new occurrences and updates to existing records. Our database is updated on a near-daily to quarterly basis, depending on the data set.

How Our Data are Used

Our data are requested by a myriad of users from around the state and county. These include individuals from Federal and state agencies, private consultants, developers, nonprofit conservation organizations, researchers, students, and private citizens.

Data from Biotics are commonly used for:

  • Land conservation programs: To identify those areas most deserving protection by IDNR and other organizations.

  • Environmental review: To supplement environmental review of specific project-related impacts through the endangered species consultation process. Examples include commercial and residential developments, transportation projects, utility construction, landfills, mining, and flood control projects.

  • Planning: To notify private and public land use planners and developers of locations of rare species or biologically sensitive areas early in the planning process.

  • Management: To provide data to government agencies and other land management organizations so that management decisions can be made with consideration for rare features.

  • Research: To provide baseline information on rare features to support population monitoring and other ecological research.

  • Education: To promote public awareness and appreciation of Illinois' rare features.


Please be aware that the Natural Heritage Database cannot provide a conclusive statement on the presence, absence, or condition of significant natural features in Illinois. The Department of Natural Resources can only summarize the existing information known to us and entered into the Biotics database at the time of the request. These data are dependent on the research and observations of many scientists and institutions and reflect our current state of knowledge. Many areas have never been thoroughly surveyed, and the absence of data in any particular geographic area does not necessarily mean that features of concern are not present. This report should not be regarded as a final statement on the area being considered, nor should it substitute for field surveys required for environmental assessments.

Citing our Data

Illinois Natural Heritage Database. [year of data export/report]. Biotics 5 database export. Division of Natural Heritage, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. [day month year of data export/report].