RFI Bird species codes

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: RFI Bird species codes
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 13:59:23 +1100
Some more thoughts about this. It is interesting to note that this system
appears to be well used in USA. I think this four letter system is a good
one, or would be, if it was used consistently. To do so is not actually
difficult. Where the rules used create the occasional clash, then a decision
was made to remove the clash e.g. Grey Falcon & Grey Fantail become GYFA &
GRFA and similar for any others. Therefore it will work with no clashes or
ambiguities. Following such a system (if that ever happens) would also mean
that at no time are lower case letters, spaces or hyphens ever used. So that
contrasts with Allan Richardson's comments. Every code is exactly 4 UC
letters (except Emu which is EMU). 

However I believe in database work what is used most often is numbers, as in
the Atlas numbers. In doing all the work to set up COG's GBS, I used these
Atlas numbers. Mainly because the COG database already did. We could have
gone with a four letter code and the workings would be exactly the same, but
we didn't. I happen to think a four letter code is easier to remember than
numbers and so I would have preferred to have used that system instead. The
numbers have little if any overriding or obvious principle and whilst they
may have had a meaningful sequence in mid 1970s, that is obscure now. 

The way this GBS database works is that at no time are species names (common
or scientific) or any letter codes or abbreviations used in entering,
storing or manipulating the data. The entire data handling and analysis is
done on the Atlas codes (e.g. Weebill = 465). Obviously this saves a huge
amount of work. Then links set in a table, connect the numbers to the bird
names. Thus on screen and in reports you can display the bird name in
whatever way you want it. So you don't need to ever type stuff like B-faced
C-shrike. On the input system a species is selected by inputting the number
which then brings up the bird name to confirm it, before you enter data. If
you don't have the number, it can be selected by typing in the first
characters of the bird name and the system fills in possibilities as you go,
that takes much more effort. 



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