Working for birds in Africa

app content templates


The African Bird Club is developing smartphone apps as Field Guides of African Birds. The apps contain photos, calls, text and maps for each species. The first implementation is The Birds of Mauritius which can be downloaded from Google Play Store and Apple iStore. This will be followed by The Birds of Nigeria and other West African countries. A large part of the work to date has been to develop templates which will define a set of rules for naming and building the content. The purpose of this web page is to specify those rules in order that multiple people can develop content to a consistent format and standard. The app will not display content correctly unless these rules are followed. 


For each country under development, there will be a checklist of the birds which have been recorded in that country and documented in scientific and peer-reviewed publications. It is important that the country checklist is agreed at the outset and made available to anyone working on the content for that country. The checklist will be developed under the taxonomic structure and naming conventions of the IOC

Species names

A simple form of species name is used in the app referred to as SimplifiedName. The format of the SimplifiedName is "Family_species" but hyphens, apostrophes, space bars, umlauts and other accents, and  ascii characters have been removed. Examples of SimplifiedNames for a few of the species on the Nigeria checklist are Dove_redeyed, Heron_whitebackednight and Stormpetrel_wilsons. Species with a single name such as Shikra and Garganey should remain as is. SimplifiedNames will be provided as part of the country checklist. The use of SimplifiedNames is necessary from a technical perspective in that it provides a consistent reference for populating the various content databases. For example, at the time an app is built, photos, calls, text and maps can be brought together for each species on the country checklist.


Photographs can be displayed in both portrait and landscape formats within the app. Portrait is the primary view and we should aim for at least one portrait photo for each species if possible. However, it is important to try and use the format which shows the bird to its best advantage e.g. birds standing on a branch are possibly best in portrait format and birds in flight in landscape but it is a matter of judgement. If the photos are available, we should try and provide views of males, females and juveniles and in breeding and non-breeding plumage where relevant, and front and back views where possible. Portrait photos will be required for the app at 1220 x 1800 pixels and landscape at 2048 x 1120 pixels. Numerous tests have shown these to be the best dimensions to fit the available space on smartphones. All photos should be processed as high resolution jpg files at a size of about 1mb. Birds should not fill more than 60%-70% of the photo in order to leave a border around the bird to ensure that it will fit the variety of screen shapes and sizes in the market today. In addition, space is required to allow information such as the photographer name to be added as can be seen in this SCREENSHOT. The following are examples of photos: Mauritius BulbulMauritius CuckooshrikeWestern Cattle Egret and Common Greenshank.


Calls for each species can be loaded into the app if available. A song or call of up to 30 seconds duration and file size of 150kb maximum in mp3 format is required. Most recordings are much longer and larger than this and editing is required to reduce the length, remove noise and extraneous sounds and set suitable sound levels. This work is being done with regard to the ABC Code of Practice which you can read about a third of the way down this page. In order to avoid disturbance to birds, we suggest that the volumes are set accordingly and in the case of threatened species with few known locations, to low levels. A free software download, Audacity, is recommended for call processing and this has been used successfully to develop the calls in the required form for the app so far. 


The text for each species uses a standard format with the following headings: English name; Scientific name; French name; Size (from tip of bill to tip of tail); FIELD GUIDE (Similar species); IDENTIFICATION DETAILS; MALE; FEMALE; IMMATURE; Subspecies including range and description; Voice; General habits; Status and distribution; Reference. It is written using a plain text editor such as Notepad. The template and examples are shown below. It is essential that the template is followed verbatim as it is used as input to a converter programme which translates the plain text to html format for use in the App. The African Bird Club has secured a licence to use text from the 8 volume Birds of Africa. This is the only publication which can be used as a reference to develop the field guide text and Birds of Africa can only be used for this purpose. The text for each species should occupy about two smartphone screens and thus will need limited scrolling by the user. You can download the TEXT TEMPLATE and some examples Little Bittern; Common CraneBush Petronia and Thick-billed Weaver.


The provision of maps will be carried out by a specialist. 

File names

File naming will adhere to the following standards: Photographs: SimplifiedName.index_subspecies; Calls: SimplifiedName.index; Text: SimplifiedName. Index is a sequence number which specifies where the photo or call comes in relation to other photos and calls. Typically, the numbering system will be 10, 20, 30 etc, which leaves gaps for future additions as required. Subspecies is the subspecies of the bird in the photo if known. Further information is required to describe photos and calls. For photos, photographer name; location where the photograph was taken and description of image e.g. adult female is required. For calls, recorder; owner (note extra details are required if the call has been taken from xeno-canto; location where the recording was made, description of recording e.g. adult calling at nest. 

Tips and hints

Please ensure that you have written e-mail permission from the owner of the copyright of the image or the call before you use it for the app. Set up files on your computer for each species to store and archive original and final material as well as work in progress files. Note that each species will be developed once and then used for other countries where it occurs in Africa. All content will be checked and texts proofread before being added to the central databases from which the apps will be built and kept up to date.


Contact for help with any of the tasks relating to the preparation of content. The app will be free to download so if you possess a smartphone, you will be able to download a current version and see how the content appears in situ.

Latest page update 7th JULY 2020


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