RFI Bird species codes

Subject: RFI Bird species codes
From: Allan Richardson <>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 22:20:23 +1000
Hi Martin,

I first came across a four letter code for bird records when doing some survey 
work for State forests in NSW in the 90's.

The basic format is this: the code represents the first four letters in the 
bird's formal name, with variations on the theme where required, as follows.

A single word bird name such as Galah would be Gala

A double word bird name such as Striated Thornbill would be St Th

A three word bird name such as Gang-Gang Cockatoo would be GG Co

A four word bird name such as Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike would be Bf Cs, 
although when I use the code I always put in the hyphens as an added cue to the 
bird's identity - e.g. B-f C-s or G-G Co for the Gang-Gangs above.

The hyphens also help to separate some species that  would otherwise be 
difficult to separate, such as Brown Thornbill (Br Th), and Buff-rumped 
Thornbill  (B-r Th), or Masked Lapwing (Ma La), and Magpie-lark (Ma-la), or 
Little Black Cormorant (L B Co), and Long-billed Corella, (L-b Co). Using 
capitalisation where it falls also helps to separate species as you can see 
from these examples.

There will always be those species that you can't easily separated, because 
their codes are the same, such as White-breasted Woodswallow (W-b Wo), and 
White-browed Woodswallow (W-b Wo), so you might have to add another digit, such 
as W-bs Wo and W-bw Wo respectively. It won't ring true if you're trying to 
develop a four letter code database but neither would the hyphens in such a 
case. Overlaps are not that frequent for local lists, but they do add an 
element of ambiguity for referencing down the track or when you are listing or 
surveying on a large trip or large area, where many species will be encountered.

I do know of a number of folk who give birds their own four letter codes as 
their imagination dictates, but the above code is one more formal approach that 
I have used now for many years. I find it very useful for saving on note pad 
paper and being able to get down many species when activity is high. it does 
take some getting used to, especially when you have to interpret them later, or 
worse still, you pass them on to have someone else interpret them.

i have noticed lately, while entering bird names into datbases (encompassing 
all fauna guilds) that many species have sequences of letters that bring only 
one species up very quickly with few characters entered, such as ie- for 
Magpie-lark, toeb for Mistletoebird, er-ey for Silver-eye or llarb for 
Dollarbird. A difficult method to take on board, because you would have to 
remember all of the codes without a format formula to follow, but especially 
powerful when others may have to enter your data into a database and you are 
not around to give them help when they get stuck.

I would guess that most four letter codes are similar or a variation on the 
above more formal theme.

All the best,

Allan Richardson
Morisset, NSW

On 20/03/2012, at 2:25 PM,  wrote:

> A request for list members.
> Would the people/person who developed short acronyms or 'series of 
> letters' for Australian species codes please send me a copy of their code 
> list or direct me to where this can be found?
> Martin O'Brien
> Melbourne
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