Proposal (530) to South American Classification Committee


Remove hyphens from “Ground-Dove”



SACC/NACC policy is to hyphenate group names only when they refer to monophyletic groups.  Although we have ferreted out most of these, an overlooked one is hyphenated Ground-Dove in Columbina, Metriopelia, Claravis, and Uropelia.  Columbina squammata (Scaled Dove) and North American C. inca (“Inca” Dove) are not called “Something Ground-Dove.”  Therefore, the hyphens have to be removed.


Van Remsen, June 2012



Comments from Stiles: “YES, at least to the extent that the hyphen is unnecessary. but “Grounddove” or “Groundove” look equally awful as replacements, better to use “Ground Dove”?”


Comments from Thomas Donegan: “


“This proposal has been met with a great deal of exasperation in the birding community:


“The concept that a hyphenated set of group names have to form a monophyletic group seems to be some sort of post modern interpolation deriving out of discussions on why not to adopt some of the IOC's unnecessary hyphenation approaches. The original codified 'rules' on hyphenation are those of Parkes, referred to in previous proposals. Neither he nor previous authors used this new rule so there is as little historical basis for it as the IOC's approaches.


“Compound group names should be hyphenated and until recently there was never an exception for non-monophyly. After all, Redstarts, Tanagers, Warblers and others turn up all over the place in the tree of life and there have been no successful proposals to split these out into hyphenated or non-hyphenated forms or create new names to date. So is this sort of change worth the hassle?


“All previous examples of non-hyphenated compound names involved two adjective names, e.g. Great and Little Blue Heron. Perhaps one reason why Parkes and other previous authors did not adopt this sort of an approach is that removing hyphens suggests that there are two adjectives describing a noun, rather than a compound set of two nouns. A blue, ground dove for instance could be a crushed, poorly cooked pigeon dish in a French restaurant. 'Ground-Dove' tells us there was no crushing involved and that it is a particular sort of dove.


“Finally, as noted on the birdfoum discussion, it would be perhaps more sensible to rename Inca (or Aztec) Dove and Scaled Dove as ground doves than to rename a large number of birds in several genera. After all, they are both pretty terrestrial species.”



Response from Remsen:


“First, Donegan is correct that Parkes did not actually use the word ‘monophyletic.’  That’s in part because its use was not widespread in 1978.  Nonetheless, it is clear from Parkes’ paper that by “group”, he meant a monophyletic group or at least a group of closely related species.  Here’s what he wrote:


‘(On the other hand, "Great Blue Heron" and "Little Blue Heron" are unhyphenated, as there is no group of "Blue-Herons," both adjectives in these two names modifying the group-name "heron.") In a few cases, Eisenmann himself used unhyphenated words, but consistency would require that these be hyphenated.  Thus "Black-Hawk" rather than "Black Hawk" should be used for the species of Buteogallus, congruent with Eisenmann's use of "Yellow-Finch" for the species of Sicalis.’


“But Parkes himself did not see that one species of Sicalis was just “Saffron Finch”.  Therefore, AOU rules have indeed evolved beyond Parkes to make it explicit that a hyphen indicates a monophyletic group.  This is not a bad thing, as Donegan implies, but rather an improvement in refining the rationale and making the use of hyphens unambiguous.  I strongly suspect that Ken Parkes himself would have championed this rather than treat his original rules as some sort of immutable gospel.


“Donegan’s second paragraph is pure “red herring” arm-waving.  No one has ever suggested implementing a hyphenated group name approach beyond the existing group names.


“Donegan’s third paragraph, if I’m reading it correctly, is one I actually agree with to an extent.  He understands English grammar better than the IOC group, whose claim that hyphens are not grammatically correct is absolutely wrong.  (See my refutation of this here.)  At least such ambiguity is mitigated by usage of hyphens to identify groups in W. Hemisphere birds.  Names such as “Grey Crowned Crane” and “Black Crowned Crane” are rare here because of the hyphenation of group names.  Imagine how confusing those names are lower-cased, as they are in almost all literature outside technical ornithology.


“As for adding “Ground” to change “Inca” Ground-Dove or Scaled Ground-Dove, I am certain that such a fundamental structural change would be unlikely to pass SACC or NACC.  Nearly 30 years of NACC experience strongly suggests that for every 1 person exasperated by the potential trivial punctuation change in the names of the Ground-Doves, there would be 10 people traumatized by the fundamental difference created by changing a simple name to a compound one.  Nevertheless, if this proposal fails, “Scaled Ground-Dove” (SACC) and “Inca Ground-Dove” would be the logical alternative.


“As for Donegan’s “great deal of exasperation in the birding community”, perhaps there are other comments I can’t see, but considering that nothing gets people stirred up like English names, I suggest this might be hyperbole.  Further, “the birding community” is transparent hyperbole because “the birding community” not synonymous with a few posts on BirdForum.  It is disheartening that some see the hyphenation policy as “contrived and complex”, when it is actually very simple and provides explicit information on relationships among birds.  The alternatives, are (1) add hyphens to remove ambiguity in all compound names (e.g. Great Blue-Heron and Little Blue-Heron), thereby generating unavoidable, false impressions of relatedness, (2) no hyphens (e.g., Grey Crowned Crane, Jungle Bush Quail, Shade Bush Warbler), thereby perpetuating unintelligible names, especially when lower-cased in non-ornithological literature, or (3) just live with the current inconsistencies.


“One sad thing for sure – I just wasted another block of time on hyphens.”


Comments from Robbins: “YES.  I agree with Gary comments that if we do not use the hyphen, then lets use Ground Dove, not Grounddove!”


Comments from Stotz: “YES.  I agree with Van the changing Inca Dove and Scaled Dove to Inca Ground-Dove or Scaled Ground-Dove is not in the cards, primarily because Inca Dove is a well-known North American species.  But further there is a another group of Ground-Doves (or Ground Doves), I’ve seen it both ways: the genus Gallicolumba from the Pacific islands.  Within that genus are a subset of doves called Bleeding-Hearts, which I presume is the reason for the occasional unhyphenated Ground Dove.  Mostly Ground-Dove is used for Gallicolumba, so trying to maintain Ground-Dove for Columbina might be creating the conditions from 2 monophyletic but unrelated groups of Ground-Doves.”