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5.3.  Preparing the alternate forms (.alt) file

Because field records do not always use the latest names, and because the reported forms are not always standard species, you must prepare an “alternate forms” file enumerating all the forms that have a six-letter code but which are not standard species names.

You must prepare an .alt file for each .std file, reflecting the exact lumps, splits, and names of the standard arrangement. The file must be named f.alt, where f is the same prefix as that of the .std file.

For example, if the standard file for the AOU Check-List, 6th. ed., including supplements through the 40th, is called aou640.std, the corresponding alternate names file must be called aou640.alt.

In the .alt file you will place several different types of records. Each line starts with the six-letter code being defined, followed by a record type code, and a variable length tail.

5.3.1. What constitutes a valid English name?

We allow these special characters in English names:

, _ . ( ) "

  • Commas are used in multi-word names to separate the generic part from the specific part.

    Chickadee, Gambel's
    Hawk, Eastern Sparrow

  • Periods are allowed for names that include the common abbreviation “sp.”, used for a code that applies to multiple species.

    pelican sp.
    large falcon sp.

  • Underbars are used to signify the start and end of italicized parts of the name.

    _Nycticorax_ sp.
    small _Accipiter_ sp.

    For example, the first example should be rendered as “Nycticorax sp.”. Names must include an even number of underbar characters.

  • Parentheses are used in cases like these:

    Merganser, (European) Common
    Goose, Canada (small races)

    The number of left parentheses must equal the number of right parentheses.

  • Double-quote characters are used in a few cases like these:

    Warbler, "Lawrence's"
    Flycatcher, "Western"

    A valid name must have an even number of double-quote characters.

There is one more rule: multi-word names must have at least one of the above special characters. You may omit the comma only in cases where you are using periods, parentheses, underbars, or double-quotes.