20 Riddles to Test Your Bird Banding Code IQ

Test your alpha banding code knowledge with this fun brain teaser put together by one of  BPQ’s favorite field trip leaders. 

Guess the species and its 4-letter alpha code based on the bird’s English name for each riddle below. If you are new to alpha bird name codes, a type of shorthand used by ornithologist to help speed up data entry, or need a refresher on how they are derived, here’s a website that provides a quick overviewA list of these codes arranged by alphabetical order is available here.

You can also download a printable PDF version of the quiz. Feel free to share online but a link back to our website would be appreciated.

Bird Banding Code Quiz
Created by Wayne Grubert

Note: None of the answers are species whose codes fall into the category of exceptions, so everything follows the rules set out based on the number of words in the bird’s name. All are species which have been seen in Quebec, most commonly, but a few more rarely. In some cases the hint narrows the search to a particular group. In some cases not.

1 – If you are a hare, grouse or squirrel you may want to invest in a warning sign that includes this raptor’s banding code to mark its territorial boundary.

2 – This gregarious insectivore doesn’t look much like a Mountain Lion despite its banding code. Or maybe it is just brand specific when it comes to shoes.

3 – This species can often be seen running on top and digging its toes into its banding code.

4 – This rare shorebird visitor to Québec is its own banding code.

5 – Push the third letter of this bird’s banding code one more position down the alphabet and it would be a great « spokesbird » for a certain animal rights group.

6 – As far as we know Victor did not have this tall shorebird in mind when he wrote Les Misérables.

7 – When you hear this bird’s melodious call you are likely to turn and listen.

8 – Because we don’t often visit northern bogs to hear this passerine’s song, we don’t really know if it has a speech impediment or not. It might, based on its banding code.

9 – Reverse the middle two letters of a big ugly old male pig and you have the banding code of this absolutely beautiful neotropical migrant.

10 – Add MAS to this pirate’s banding code and you’ll have something to wear to bed.

11 – You won’t need that sleepwear in #10 to sleep in what this duck’s banding code suggests.

12 – This raptor can often be seen sitting on and blending in to its banding code.

13 – We probably don’t want to see this seabird released at weddings despite its banding code.

14 – Move this warbler’s banding code’s third letter one position towards the beginning of the alphabet and it would be its own PBS science show.

15 – You might need some of Mr. Tracy’s investigative skills to track down one of these birds in our area but they do show up very rarely.

16 – Change the first letter of this bird’s banding code by one position toward the end of the alphabet and it might get an invite to a certain animated explorer’s children’s TV show.

17 – This long distant traveler and Quebec summer breeding bird has a banding code seen at the beginning of many street/highway signs in Montreal.

18 – This very common bird’s banding code would suggest where it likes to shop or maybe just do a certain type of walking for exercise.

19 – This bird may not be related to Ms. Blanchett but it is related to another bird on this list.

20 – This one is a « twofer ». So call it a bonus question. What everyone wanted Lassie to do in this 1943 film gives us the banding codes of two related waterbirds.

Photo Credit: Kristen Lalla