"Robert Berry" <>
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 23:02:21 +1000
To-day I received my RAOU - sorry, Birds Australia, magazine and, since I
live in Victoria, my Vic Babbler ( convened by the amazing Dr. Doris
In it, our very own Hugo Phillipps writes of a recently developed 5 letter
key to birds at Melbourne airport devised by Will Steele. With 26 possible
alleles at each locus a 5 letter key would suffice for all the insects in
the universe let alone Australian birds! For quite a few years now I have
used a 3 to 4 letter key for entering my sightings onto computer. The
advantage of letters over numbers is that they can have some meaning and
are easily remembered.
For birds with two names I have used the first two letters of each name
thus - Spotted Pardalote = SpPa, (the capitalisation is only for ease of
interpretation), for double barrelled names, e.g. Shrike-tit the first
letter of each barrel gets a guernsey - CrST. There are double double
barrels such as Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo = YTBC. It is desirable that
often used components are treated the same all the time thus Pied = Pd,
Grey = Gy, Black = Bk.
Birds with just one name are represented by the first three letters.
Honeyeaters are the biggest family in Oz and in most instances I have
represented these with three letters.
When a collision occurs by applying these "rules" it is best if both
colliders are given an irregular name and there are a few common birds
which have ended up with irregular keys just to remind me of my pommy youth
spent studying French.
If anyone would find a checklist to the birds of Australia useful I would
be happy to forward one, complete with a short key that has stood the test
of a few years use.
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