Monday 30 November 2020

F is for Fulica

As a keen user of eBird I keep on discovering new and exciting things. If you don't use this magnificent and nerd-pleasing piece of citizen science just hit back, this will take you to my last post which was about seeing no birds and will still be more interesting than this one which is about keyboard shortcuts.

F is for Coot. In an ideal world I would just wander around the patch saying the names of birds. Saying "Coot" would add a Coot to my in-progress eBird tally. Saying "2 Coots" would add two and so on. This would also allow me to keep looking at the birds, but as everyone knows we don't live in an ideal world and so unfortunately this is not yet a feature. Hopefully come clever bods are working on it, but for now fingers are required and as the weather gets colder my desire to have them encased in nice warm gloves is increasing. I don't have one of those fancy gloves which allows touchscreen use via some pad embedded in the fingertip, and in any event the phone is locked to my fingerprint (although apparently I can use my face too, lucky Samsung). So I am on the lookout for the most efficient way to input the birds I see so that my glove can go back on as soon as possible. Rather than painstakingly enter C-o-o in order to bring up Coot, I have discovered that the letter F brings it up. It is second on the screen after Feral Pigeon, but that is enough to then add however many Coots it is that I have just counted. And seeing as Coots are one of the only species of birds on the [dead] patch at the moment I find I am needing to count them quite a lot. Yes, the humble letter F is going to be very useful.

This got me thinking to see if there were any other useful time-savers out there for urban UK patch workers. Here's what I have found so far. Note that these may not take you directly to the species, but they will bring that species onto the screen sufficiently high up that scrolling won't be needed. I've not included wildfowl as they are always at the top of the page anyway when the seach bar is empty.

D = Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker

E = Egyptian Goose, Moorhen

F= Feral Pigeon, Coot

J = Jay, Jackdaw

K = Kestrel

L = Little Grebe

N = Parakeet

U = Larus sp (invaluable)

W = Woodpigeon, Cormorant

There are infinitely more possibilities for two letters, but here are the ones I have found most useful locally.

CA = Crow, Goldfinch

CC = Chiffchaff, Chaffinch

CH = Greenfinch

ER = Robin

FI = Finch sp, for all vizmiggers with a conscience

GC = Great Crested Grebe

GU = all Gulls

MA = Magpie

ME = Meadow Pipit

RE = Redwing, Goldcrest

SI = Siskin

SK = Skylark

SO = Song Thrush

SP = Sprawk, Sparrow

ST = Starling

TI = all Tits

TU = all Thrushes

WO = Woodpeckers

What about more complex acronyms? Well this is a thing of beauty - I believe any species can be found with a combination of just four letters, ie EUWI = European Wigeon, MUSW = Mute Swan and so on, but whilst these might have entered birding lexicon for birders in the US, they hardly trip off the tongue for us. However there are a few that do work.

BHG = Black-headed Gull

GBB = Great-black Backed Gull

GSWP = Great-spotted Woodpecker

LBB = Lesser Black-backed Gull

LTT = Long-tailed Tit

I think that generally there are quicker ways to get there (as described above), but nonetheless if you know this and are also handy with some of the Latin binomials, you can generally work out what will likely get you to the bird you want quite quickly with just a few letters - I find this far easier than scrolling up and down the entire list. There are some other gems buried in there, perhaps showing eBird's American heritage, for instance BB = Grey Plover, but I expect I have only scratched the surface.

Anyhow, I hope at least one other person found this useful. If you too use eBird and have found some useful shortcuts, do please let us all know.


  1. There's a handy summary of how all the "quick find codes" work here -


    1. Ah cool. I still think the one letter approach is useful though. Louis, one of the Wanstead birders, has offered the ideal solution to the problem. He is accompanied by his better half and she enters the birds on eBird as he calls them out. Winner.

  2. Scientific name binomials, not Latin. It's a heck of a long drive for me just to come cuff you 'round the ear and explain the difference. Plus I'll be unable to return without somehow quarantining myself somewhere. No, definitely not worth the effort. Not unless you do it again... :)

    PS: 'N' for parakeet? As in noisy? Nasty? Nauseating? Noxious? Not on Skye? (TFFT!)

    1. Apologies, my degree is in French art and literature and I am a total scientific numptie. I think I just about get that the earth goes around the sun every so often, but most of the biggest discoveries in the last 200 years have yet to register in any detail. Surely there is some latin in there though - etymology and all that? Ruddy Shelduck T ferruginea for example is directly traceable to the latin for iron.

    2. Haha, you're quite right of course! My pedantry levels are too high when it comes to this kind of thing. "Latinised binomials" is probably a safe middle ground. Taking pterodactyls as a random example, pteron is Greek for wing and dactylus is Greek for claw. Latin itself was an Italian language largely derived from Greek words (I know you know this, I'm not trying to talk down to you...) Taking this to species level, Pterodactylus oweni was a real animal but 'owen' is not a Greek or a Latin word. When Mr Seeley was describing this particular pterodactyl in 1864, he obviously felt that Mr Owen should be honoured by having the creature named in his honour, hence the name was latinised to oweni.

      BTW, eBird quick code for all pterodactyls is 'X' which I believe stands for 'it's extinct you stringy bustard'.

    3. OK, so the next time I find myself needing to refer to binomials I will try and call them latinised binomials. In fact this could be as early as today given the presence of an "albifrons" Goose on the patch. And actually albifrons is a far better example than Ruddy Shelduck, it is literally what it says on the tin in this instance.