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I want to show 50 bird species on a map and give each species a different symbol (with a different colour) so they can be visually distinguished in the map.

Is this possible?

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While technically possible (see @dassouki's answer), it may not be recommended. Representing 50 symbols on a map (even with different colours) may make it very difficult to visualise and interpret. I tend to use no more than 10 symbols in a map if possible. Any more than that and the reader gets bogged down with information and they're constantly going back and forth between the legend and the map. I suggest splitting the data into multiple maps if possible. – Fezter Apr 26 '13 at 1:05

I'm not sure if this answers your question but here's how you do it in QGIS

What you need:

  • Bird point vector layer
  • In that layer, you should have a unique field (row) that identifies those birds species categories


  • Right click the layer, then click on Properties
  • Click on the Style on the left
  • In the Style (top of the window) drop down click on Categorized
  • In the Column drop down, click on the bird species category field that you have identified
  • In Color map specify the colors you need. You can change those later
  • Click on Classify (bottom of the window)
  • Now you see, that the colors are different for each category.
  • You can change the color of any category by right clicking on it and picking the option you want
  • You can double click the row to change the symbol
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