Yesterday wasn’t all that busy as far as numbers go, but we had our high percentage of different species, including this handsome Red-bellied woodpecker.  This bird gets its name from a wash of pale red that appears across the belly, mostly in adult males like this one. 

red-bellied woodpecker

red-bellied woodpecker

For a very long time, banders have been using abbreviations to record bird names; for example, it’s much faster to write RBWO than red-bellied woodpecker  when recording field data.  These abbreviations, or alpha codes, have become standardized over the years and are periodically updated if the American Ornithologist’s Union should decide to change the name of a species.  Examples of official name changes are tufted titmouse (TUTM) to eastern tufted titmouse (ETTI) and catbird (CATB) to gray catbird (GRCA).  There have been many more since I began banding. 

The alpha code is usually derived from the first four letters of the species name (if it’s a short one), like MALL for mallard.  For longer names, it’s the first two letters of each word, such as PRWA for prairie warbler.  As the names get longer, the combination rules change to accommodate. The last two letters often identify the family group:  WA for warblers, WO for woodpeckers,  SP for sparrows.

 So, with this quick little explanation of alpha codes, here are the birds we banded yesterday.  Anyone want to venture a guess?



8 Responses to “RBWO”

  1. Lynne at Hasty Brook Says:

    SOSP Song Sparrow
    FISP Field Sparrow
    CHSP Chipping Sparrow
    WBNU White-breasted Nuthatch
    DOWO Downy Woodpecker

    I can’t guess the rest!

  2. obi4240 Says:

    You’re right so far!

  3. linda Says:

    RCKI ruby-crowned kinglet
    GCKI golden-crowned kinglet
    BCCH black capped chickadee
    NOCA northern cardinal

    am i on the right track?

  4. obi4240 Says:

    Perfect! Just one left….

  5. yolanda Says:

    I grew up seeing these in my backyard and listening to them beat on our tin roof.

  6. KGMom Says:

    Oh, everyone who got here before me knew all the answers. But, that’s good–because I wouldn’t have. I only know that SP= sparrow.
    Love the photo of the rbwo–love that red head.

  7. obi4240 Says:

    Gosh, forgot all about this one. EAPH = eastern phoebe. Sorry, folks!

  8. Jarred Hott Says:

    I just like the helpful info you supply to your articles. I will bookmark your blog and test again right here regularly. I am slightly certain I’ll be informed a lot of new stuff right right here! Good luck for the next!

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