It doesn’t take a scientist to know that an ostrich and an oriole cannot mate. The two may share common traits: Each is covered with feathers, and eats through a beak, and lays eggs. But the average person knows it takes a lot more for two animals to get down to the birds and the bees, so to speak.

Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. 352 pages. W.W. Norton & Co. $27.95.

Anyone can look at these animals and see two species that are simultaneously related and distinct. And most know the reason behind such duality — it’s evolution, stupid. But while it’s easy to recognize evolution’s delineated products — the tiny, fast, and orange-breasted oriole; the bulky, flightless, and long-necked ostrich — the process itself is trickier to glimpse.

But consider the Monarch flycatcher…. More…