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The BBL code system: Rules for forming the codes

The USF&W Bird Banding Lab codes were introduced in:

Klimkiewicz, Kathleen, and Chandler S. Robbins. Standard abbreviations for common names of birds. North American Bird Bander 1978, 3:16-25.
Codes are formed using these rules:
  1. If the name consists of only one word, the code is taken from the initial letters, up to four:
            DUNL  Dunlin
            DOVE  Dovekie
            OU    Ou
            GADW  Gadwall
  2. If there are two words in the name, the code is made from the first two letters of each word:
            AMWI  American Wigeon
            EAME  Eastern Meadowlark
  3. For three-word names where only the last two words are hyphenated, the code uses two letters from the first word and one each from the last two:
            EASO  Eastern Screech-Owl
            WEWP  Western Wood-Pewee
  4. For other names with three words, the code takes one letter each from the first two words and two from the last word:
            RTHA  Red-tailed Hawk
            WWCR  White-winged Crossbill
            WPWI  Whip-poor-will
  5. For four-word names, the code takes one letter from each word:
            BCNH  Black-crowned Night-Heron
            ASTK  American Swallow-tailed Kite
            NSWO  Northern Saw-whet Owl

A collision is a situation where two or more names would abbreviate to the same code using these rules.

The Bird Banding Lab decides what code to use in these cases. If one name is far more common than the other name or names involved, typically the common species gets to use the name. In most cases (e.g., Lark Bunting and Lazuli Bunting) when both birds are common, the collision code is not used, and unambiguous substitutes are provided for both forms.

Next: The BBL code system: Collision problems
See also: Bird code systems: The Bird Banding Lab system
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 1996/01/21 20:02:29