We summarize the history of the varied practices of hyphenating compound English names of birds to highlight taxonomic relationships. English names do not and can not reflect phylogenetic relationships of birds very well, however lofty that ideal. Instead, English names of birds are driven more by tradition than by modern systematics; the consequence is that well-intentioned hyphenation practices misrepresent phylogenetic relationships too often to be helpful. We urge ornithologists to work together to simplify the use of hyphens as one small step towards improved standardization of English bird names.
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Vol. 121 • No. 3