[Tweeters] Thanks Kelly - 4 letter codes

Mary Ann Chapman machapman at the-mkt-edge.com
Tue Jul 12 22:24:10 PDT 2005

It's fine for the scientific community, though from what Kelly says below, 
it may not really be that big there anyway.  It's fine for the hard-core 
birder who wants to have (or appear to have) part of that cache.  But if I 
were in the field trying to make out some bird, and another birder looked 
and said, "Oh, it's just an AMRO," I would think they were from another 
planet.  Is that really easier than saying "robin"?  It's the same number 
of syllables, and what is the likelihood that it's a clay-colored?  (Is 
that still a bird?)  Geez.  And just imagine learning them all and then 
having to deal with the lumps and splits and name changes.  It boggles the 

I remember in the old days we used to have inside pet names for species, 
like "butterbutt" and "phainopop", but that's different 
altogether.  Anybody can figure those out, and it was a lot more fun than 
memorizing 4-character codes.  Some of these codes are almost as many 
syllables as the actual bird name.  I can see using them in field notes, 
but casual conversation with someone in the field?  It seems like it's 
chipping away at the last vestiges of elegance, grace, and beauty in the 
pursuit of birding and sharing our experiences with one another.  Not to 
mention yet one more sort of class divide between birders.

In posting to Tweeters, you are sharing your experiences and knowledges 
with others and encouraging them to do the same.  Many of us are never in 
this lifetime going to learn all the codes and therefore often won't know 
what you're talking about without an initial use of the bird name.  But 
maybe that doesn't matter to you.  On the other hand, one of us may be the 
one who gets the VGHB (would that be correct?) at our feeder and doesn't 
bother to mention it to coders, having lumped them with those dreaded listers.

Mary Ann Chapman

At 09:41 PM 7/12/2005, Brett Wolfe wrote:
>Thanks Kelly, for what is probably the best e-mail on this yet.
>No, you probably won't see the AOU codes in a paper. But if you bird band, 
>as I do, you'll use them and see them everywhere. You even "talk" in them 
>(AMRO or American Robin, is pronounced as it looks, "Am-row"). And if you 
>do point counts or wetlands monitoring, as I also do, you use the same 
>codes, going into the computer and everything. All of my notes are done 
>that way, as are all of my fellow biologists this year. THAT is what I 
>meant by the scientific community. And because they are so useful to me, I 
>don't just hit the "erase" button in my brain and get rid of them. I keep 
>using them. (Personally, I think the numeric codes stink, because they are 
>not as user-friendly; the bird codes at least generally follow a 
>particular set of rules that are easy to figure out. There seems to be 
>little rhyme or reason to the plant codes). And birds are so extensively 
>studied, that there is an actual, universal list (or at the very least, 
>hemispheral, as there are over 2100 birds ! on the AOU list I have). It is 
>not just made up by a few of us bird geeks to piss off everyone else.
>So yea, that comment was not kosher by me, and I would rephrase it if done 
>over. Still, I think that the dissenters should know that a lot of the 
>people who use this list with them use the codes frequently. Those of us 
>who do, should try to be more cognizant of those who don't. But in either 
>case, if people would just use their delete key instead of going 
>ballistic, the whole list would be a happier place. I delete at least 50% 
>of all tweeters e-mails without reading them (usually due to 
>geographic-specific info I don't care about at that time), why don't 
>others use the same method to save aggravation?
>Brett A. Wolfe
>Seattle, WA (in San Joaquin Valley for summer 2005)
><mailto:m_lincolnii at yahoo.com>m_lincolnii at yahoo.com
>Kelly Cassidy <lostriver at completebbs.com> wrote:
>Brett Wolfe writes:
>"I just wish more birders were open to it, but most birders are not in the 
>scientific community and want to keep it that way."
>OK, I'm in the "scientific community."  When was the last time you saw a 
>paper in a peer-reviewed journal that used the 4-letter AOU codes?  Sure, 
>people use codes in their research for short-hand notes and computer 
>files.  I've used codes for plants, herps, mammals, birds (based on 
>scientific, not common, name), numeric codes for vegetation communities, 
>codes for plot types, you name it.  Two weeks after I finish a project, 
>the codes start fading.  I'm currently using the AOU codes on a project so 
>I (sort of) know them.  For this year.
>I say, use codes if you want.  It's a free country.  I delete the 
>code-heavy posts without puzzling over them.  Life is too short.
>Kelly Cassidy
>Pullman, WA
><mailto:lostriver at completebbs.com>mailto:lostriver at completebbs.com
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