Game centers

Do you like Hit Game Wordle? Try BRDL, a bird-inspired spin-off

If you’ve spent more than five minutes online this month, you’ve probably played Wordle or seen people sharing the results of their games. Right now, that 6×5 tile grid seems pretty much unmissable.

For those who’ve somehow avoided the game altogether so far, here’s the gist: Wordle is a word puzzle that gives you six tries to guess a five-letter mystery word using the process of elimination. The correct letters placed in the correct tiles are marked in green and the correct letters in the wrong tiles are marked in yellow. Completely incorrect letters are grayed out. On each attempt, mix and replace accordingly. Sounds simple, right? It can be – and yet it can also be surprisingly difficult! Either way, Wordle is a whole lot of fun, and every day a new word provides a new challenge. You can read more about the creator of Wordle and the game’s backstory here.

Unsurprisingly, Wordle and its popularity have already inspired a slew of spinoffs. In fact, there’s now one for the four-letter band codes, or alpha codes, that researchers use as shorthand for species names – and it just so happens to be designed by d’s own graphic designer. ‘Audubon, Alex Tomlinson. Launched this week, BRDL has received rave reviews on Audubon Slack and bird chirp, so try below to see if you can deduce which banding code is the mystery code of the day. If you’re like most people and don’t know your banding codes by heart, here’s a complete list. You can also find a quick tutorial on how they work below.

Once you know your North American codes and start mastering BRDL on a daily basis, it might be time for a new challenge. In this case, we suggest looking across the pond; BRDL itself has already been modified by Rob Robinson of the British Trust for Ornithology to show the British five-letter banding codes. His version is called “A sounding BRDL,” a reference to the British use of the ring instead of the band. So file that one with boot, and lift, and bumbershoot, and all those other wonderful Britishisms.

What does Alex think of the rapid success of BRDL and its own spin-offs? “It’s so surreal!” he told me on Slack. “I had no idea such a niche would be so popular!”


How do BRDL band codes work?

In North America, band codes can be either four or six letters. There are actually several sets of four-letter codes, but we won’t go into all of that here. Let’s just say the world of tape codes is nuanced and delightfully pedantic, so you should definitely find out more about it when you have a moment. (For those aware and concerned about these notorious “collisions”, Alex plans to avoid them for now.) The key takeaway for BRDL is that the codes used come from the official government bird banding laboratory and that they depend on a set of rules, as shown below.

When the name is a word, the code is simply the first four letters.




When the name is composed of two words, which is often the case in the world of birds, the code consists of the first two letters of each word.

monthlight up DoI

GRto eat For exampleback

Common Orfalcon

With three words, things get a little trickier. Here, the code is made up of the first letter of each of the first two words and the first two letters of the third.

gWell Bread HERon

VSlengthen-VScolored PSThe arrow

However, when a hyphen is found at the end of a three-word name, as shown below, you use the first two letters of the first name and the first letter of each of the middle names.

Floridaorida Scrub-JYeah

Finally, when the name is composed of four words, the code is the first letter of each without taking into account the hyphens.

Ein back Ohip-PWhere-Osick

gRay-VSrowed Rosy-Fthumb

Oedge-Rinflated Stor-Petrel

Do you have all that? Alright, good. Happy BRDLing!

Graphic: Alex Tomlinson/Audubon.