An easier to-use and remember alternative to the official four-letter codes that researchers use to represent bird names. Short-cut names are nice when recording info into notebooks while in the field.
From the Ohio birds e-mail listserv :
Subject: six-letter code // Re: [Ohio-birds] Four letter codes
Date: Thu, 8 Oct 2009 01:12:55 -0400
I use my own six-letter code. The system is described at
I agree with others in recommending against use of codes in posts to
birding listserv lists, but for personal use I find my six-letter code
much easier than a four-letter code.
What are the four-letter codes for Barn Swallow, Bank Swallow, and Bahama
Swallow? All three can't be BASW. In the six-letter system they're
easy: Barn Swallow=BARSWA, Bank Swallow=BANSWA, Bahama Swallow=BAHSWA.
For two-word names the first three letters of each word are used. The
codes almost read themselves. In the BBL (Bird Banding Laboratory)
system, Barn Swallow is BARS and Bank Swallow is BANS. Bahama Swallow is
presumably BAHS. For Breeding Bird Survey work you'll want to use the
BBS system, which has about 60 codes that differ from the BBL system's.
For example, Barn Swallow is BASW (or is that for Bank Swallow???) ...
and, oh yes, Bank Swallow is BNKS (or is that BANS?). What is Bahama
Swallow in the BBS system? I don't know. Maybe the same as in the BBL
These swallows do not require special-case abbreviations in the six-
letter system. They are simply
Barn Swallow = BARSWA (3 + 3 for the two words)
Bank Swallow = BANSWA
Bahama Swallow = BAHSWA
My six-letter system has only nine "collisions," each one involving two
species, so only 18 special-case abbreviations are required for the
nearly 1000 birds in the ABA checklist. A four-letter system (either
one) requires over 100 special-case abbreviations, more than 10 percent
of the entire checklist.
Ned mentions three examples of similarities or collisions in the four-
letter BBL system:
"RNPH" = Ring-necked Pheasant (????) = Red-necked Phalarope (RNPH)
"CHSW" = Chimney Swift (CHSW) = Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA)
"BAOW" = Barn Owl (BNOW) = Barred Owl (BDOW)
I couldn't find the BBL code for Ring-necked Pheasant in the RNPH
collision, but RNPH (the collsion code itself!) is assigned to Red-necked
Phalarope according to the reference I found.
The codes for Chimney Swift and Chestnut-sided Warbler are similar, but
there is no collision if the four-letter rules are followed.
The BAOW collision for Barn Owl/Barred Owl is resolved by special-case
abbreviations BNOW and BDOW.
In the six-letter system there is no pheasant/phalarope collsion. We
Ring-necked Pheasant = RINEPH (2 + 2 + 2 for the three words)
Red-necked Phalarope = RENEPH
There is no swift/warbler collision. We have
Chimney Swift = CHISWI
Chestnut-sided Warbler = CHSIWA
The Barn Owl/Barred Owl collision is resolved by very readable six-letter
Barn Owl = BARNOW
Barred Owl = BARROW
Note that BAROWL is not used for either species, which would be confusing
and could easily lead to errors.
The six-letter system rules, special-case codes, and a complete listing
of codes for species in the ABA checklist are at
SPECIAL CASE ABBREVIATIONS
Barn Owl BARNOW
Barred Owl BARROW
Leach's Storm-Petrel LEACSP
Least Storm-Petrel LEASSP
Blackburnian Warbler BLBUWA
Blackpoll Warbler BLPOWA
Palm Warbler PALMWA
Pallas's Warbler PALLWA
Black-throated Gray Warbler BTGYWA
Black-throated Green Warbler BTGNWA
Wilson's Warbler WILSWA
Willow Warbler WILLWA
Common Redpoll COREDP
Common Redshank COREDS
Yellow-breasted Bunting YBREBU
Yellow-browed Bunting YBROBU
Green-breasted Mango GNBRMA
Gray-breasted Martin GYBRMA