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.
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?
SOSP, FISP, CHSP, RCKI, GCKI, BCCH, NOCA, EAPH, WBNU, and DOWO