Evolution of Bird Migration: A Phylogenetic and Biogeographic Perspective

  • Andreas J. Helbig
Conference paper


In this chapter I intend to discuss relationships between migratoriness of bird species on the one hand and their range characteristics, phylogeographic structure and phylogeny on the other. I will do this by proposing a number of hypotheses based on present knowledge of migration behaviour and range characteristics of migratory landbirds in general. These hypotheses will then be discussed and, in two cases, tested quantitatively using published and unpublished DNA sequence data. The discussion will be restricted to the Northern Hemisphere. As migratory species I regard those in which at least some populations undertake annual return migrations over several thousand kilometres (altitudinal migrants are not considered). Testing hypotheses about the evolution of migration requires robust estimates of the phylogeny of some model groups which, ideally, should contain many species of varying degrees of relatedness and migratoriness. Such phylogeny estimates have become available only recently, e.g. for the genera Phylloscopus (Price et al. 1997, Acrocephalus-Hippolais (Helbig and Seibold 1999), Sylvia (Blondel et al. 1996; Helbig in Shirihai et al. 2001) and the subfamiliy Parulinae (mainly genus Dendroica Lovette and Bermingham 1999, 2001). With the continuing extension and refinement of molecular phylogenies, in the near future we can expect much better opportunities to subject ideas about the evolution of migration to rigorous analysis. Results presented here are intended as a first step in this direction.


Bird Migration Breeding Range Willow Warbler Garden Warbler Species Flock 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas J. Helbig
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität Greifswald, Vogelwarte HiddenseeVogelwarte HiddenseeGermany

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