The INSTITUTE for BIRD POPULATIONS
STANDARDIZED 4- AND 6-LETTER BIRD SPECIES CODES
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Alphabetic (“alpha”) codes are abbreviations of English or scientific bird names that are employed by ornithologists as shorthand. They allow quicker data entry than filling out the full English or scientific name of a species and they can also serve to cross-check other recorded names or numeric data. The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) has long used alpha codes in banding data, and these codes have become an integral part of large ornithological programs across the United States and Canada. Inconsistencies have occurred in the rules governing the alpha codes of the BBL, however, and the list it maintains does not include most species found in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean but not in the United States or Canada.

In 2003, IBP began developing a new set of four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes to reflect current American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) taxonomy and nomenclature in their check-list (AOU 1998) and subsequent supplements (AOU 2000-2015). We have since updated the list every time that the AOU publishes a supplement to their check-list, which now occurs annually.

We have developed two sets of alpha codes for use by North and Central American and Caribbean ornithologists. The first set contains four-letter codes, based on English names, broadly following the rules and strategies adopted by the BBL. The second set follows the same basic principles except that it contains six-letter codes based on the scientific names. We hope that this second set will be useful for ornithologists, particularly those in Latin American countries, who prefer using scientific rather than English names. These two sets of codes will continue to be updated annually following taxonomic and name changes adopted by the AOU.

View or download the latest English and Scientific Alpha Codes for North American Birds by clicking on one of the links at the top right of this page. There are four formats available: three PDF documents (sorted phylogenetically, alphabetically by common name, and alphabetically by scientific name), and a dBASE file (DBF) that can be opened by several commonly used programs (Dbase, Excel, Access, Paradox).

We have created update files containing all of the changes that were made to the Alpha Codes list in a given year; download these lists for 2013, 2014, and 2015 by clicking on the respective year. Contact Peter Pyle if you would like similar lists dating back to 1999.

If you have any questions about the Alpha Codes or detect any errors, please contact Peter Pyle.

Related AOU Publications

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2015. Fifty-sixth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 132:748-764. DOI: 10.1642/AUK-15-73.1.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2014. Fifty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 131:CSi-CSxv. DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-124.1.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2013. Fifty-fourth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 130:558-571.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2012. Fifty-third supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 129:573-588.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2011. Fifty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 128:600-613.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2010. Fifty-first supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 127:726-744.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.T. Chesser, et al., comps.). 2009. Fiftieth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 126:705-714.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2008. Forty-ninth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 125:758-768.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2007. Forty-eighth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 124:508-514.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2006. Forty-seventh supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 123:926-936.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2005. Forty-sixth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-List of North American birds. Auk 122:1026-1031.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-list of North American birds. Auk 121:985-995.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU; R.C. Banks, et al., comps.). 2003. Forty-fourth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-list of North American birds. Auk 120:923-931.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2002. Forty-third supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-list of North American birds. Auk 119:897-906.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2000. Forty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union check-list of North American birds. Auk 117:847-858.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th ed. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington D.C. 829 pp.

Photo Credits: Top of Page, Rob Crowe; Right Column Top, Ron Knight
 

 

 

 

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SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

Peer-reviewed Publications

Pyle, P., and D.F. DeSante. 2009a. Updates to four-letter and six-letter alpha codes based on revisions by the American Ornithologists' Union in 2007-2008. North American Bird Bander 34:65-67. PDF

Pyle, P., and D.F. DeSante. 2009b. Updates to four-letter and six-letter alpha codes based on revisions by the American Ornithologists' Union in 2009. North American Bird Bander 34:109-110. PDF

Pyle, P., and D.F. DeSante. 2006. Updates to four-letter and six-letter alpha codes based on revisions by the American Ornithologists' Union in 2005-2006. North American Bird Bander 31:193-195. PDF

Pyle, P., and D.F. DeSante. 2003. Four-letter and six-letter alpha codes for birds recorded in the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list area. North American Bird Bander 28:64-79. PDF

The INSTITUTE for BIRD POPULATIONS