Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bird species' acronyms

This column about acronyms for birds' common names includes this graf:

Years rolled by, and acronyms for bird names were as rare as ivory-billed woodpeckers. Then they seem to explode on the scene among young, computer-oriented birders. Sometimes, multiple bird sighting reports can be a challenge to decipher.

I'm familiar with the protocol that bird banders typically use to create four-letter acronyms (and have used since the 1960s): first two letters of each word. In the case of a one-word common name, use the first four letters; Osprey is OSPR. In the case of a hyphenated adjective or name, use the first letter of each word; a Red-winged Blackbird is a RWBL, and an American Golden-Plover is a AMGP.

Given that system, is it difficult to decipher reports that you encounter online or otherwise? I like the Bird Banding Laboratory's sytem for its ease and expediency. What do you think?


Blogger Unknown said...

I use it for my field notebook since I can write more quickly and have more birds per page with bander's code. There are the times that species names overlap and cause confusion, in which case I try to learn the commonly accepted variation, (like CALT instead of CATO for California Towhee since there is also a Canyon Towhee) or I just try to remember which of the two species I was referring to based on where I was...

January 31, 2008 2:10 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I use it mostly in my field notebook, too.

January 31, 2008 3:51 PM  
Blogger John B. said...

I use the bird banding codes for my notebook since they are faster to write and take up less page space. When sending in reports, though, I always write out the name of the species to prevent confusion (or complaints).

January 31, 2008 3:51 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

The practice of using acronyms only on second reference in reports sometimes precludes complaints, too.

January 31, 2008 3:55 PM  
Blogger Patrick B. said...

I don't mind when people use them, but I understand them. I think they can scare away or confuse new birders. That's why many email lists ban the use of them. I think even nicknames/abbreviated names can confuse new birders too, like "sharpie" and "coop".

January 31, 2008 4:19 PM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

I don't even pretend to remember all the banding abbreviations. I make up my own when I am jotting down stuff in my notebook.
I get turned around when I come across a more "scientific" paper or article, but as long as they use the whole name first...
I'd be in trouble if I had to write a paper.

January 31, 2008 8:39 PM  
Blogger dguzman said...

Definitely works for field notes and stuff (though I too make up some of my own when I'm unsure).

Some of the names just kinda stick in my head and become the name I call the birds all the time, like MODO, which all my in-town birder pals also use. It just fits, you know?

February 01, 2008 8:17 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Si, I know what you mean.

February 01, 2008 11:34 AM  
Blogger Bennet said...

I use them in my field notes too. I want to know why a Herring Gull is a HERG and not a HEGU. And like leigh's California/Canyon Towhee example, consider the Carolina/Cactus/Canyon Wren conundrum! So maybe not a perfect system, but I can fit a whole lot more in my notebook. I guess it's like when two-letter state abbreviations came into being: Maine got stuck with ME because every other possible combination of its name was already taken!

February 03, 2008 11:55 AM  

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