Alaska Science Center
NPPSD Taxonomic Code List for Pelagic Bird and Mammal Surveys, Version 2.0 READ ME
NPPSD Taxonomic Code List for Pelagic Bird and Mammal Surveys, Version 2.0
While compiling the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database (NPPSD) we found that there was significant variation in the codes used to identify species. We recognized the need for a cross-walk that would allow us to integrate various data sets into a single database and develop a standard set of codes. The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) was one of the first groups to establish a standard set of four-letter alpha codes. These codes simplified data transcription and have become standard shorthand for various ornithological programs in North America. Unfortunately, the BBL list contains a limited number of species and there are some inconsistencies with the American Ornithological Union (AOU) taxonomy. A new set of four-letter codes, hereafter referred to as the AOU code list, was developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003) to reconcile the BBL list with the current AOU taxonomy. The AOU list has been updated five times, most recently in 2010 (http://www.birdpop.org/alphacodes.htm).
Unfortunately, even the AOU code list does not include every species observed in the North Pacific, marine mammal species, or account for many birds not identifiable to species, e.g. Unidentified Tern. These limitations have led the assignment of numerous codes assigned on an ad hoc basis. To create NPPSD code list, we used a combination of codes including the most recent AOU list and those used historically by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Services, and various University based investigators working in the North Pacific. We followed the naming conventions used to create the AOU code list where possible.
When dealing with historical data researchers are faced with the problem of reconciling codes due to changes in both common names and scientific names. We only list the most current taxonomic information in the NPPSD code list. For taxonomic purposes we relied on the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (IT IS; (http://www.itis.usda.gov), which is now the standard reference used by federal and state governments as well as non-government organizations, and the AOU Checklist (http://www.aou.org/checklist/north/) to assure that the common names and scientific names used were up to date. The current data list is current as of September 2010. One limitation of the ITIS codes is that they are not in phylogenetic order. To resolve this problem we also included the older National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) 12 character numeric codes. The NODC codes were developed during the Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program (OCSEAP), and adopted widely by other organizations working in the North Pacific. Although NODC codes are no longer the standard and are no longer assigned, they are still useful, both for reference to historical data, and because this code provides a sort by taxonomic order (class, order, family, genus, species, and subspecies). Note, we included hybrids in the NPPSD ver. 2.0. Although there are no ITIS or NODC codes for these birds, we added “99” to the NODC code of the species that is listed last in the NODC list. For example, the Glaucous-winged Gull has a NODC code of 9128020103 and the Western Gull has code of 9128020106. The Western Gull is listed last, so the hybrid Western x Glaucous-winged Gull was given a NODC code of has a 912802010699. This preserves the phylogenetic order when sorting, but is not an accepted NODC code.
The current version of the NPPSD code list contains 329 unique 4-letter codes and common names for all marine birds (n=279) and mammals (n=50) encountered on surveys found in the NPPSD dataset and a few species known to occur, but not yet reported on surveys. This list is provided to further the goal of standardizing pelagic seabird data. Researchers are encouraged to use this list for marine bird and mammal surveys in the North Pacific.
Version 2.0 of the NPPSD taxonomic code list was prepared by USGS personnel at the Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Dr., Anchorage, Alaska 99508. Please direct any questions about, or corrections to, the code list to Gary Drew (firstname.lastname@example.org) or John Piatt (email@example.com).
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.