CEB Committe on Evolutionary Biology

The ancestral range of New World songbirds was North America

Baltimore Orioles (member of the passerine order of birds) breed in North America and winter in Central America. Photo from UChicago ScienceLife.

A new study authored by CEB graduate student Benjamin Winger and CEB faculty member Rick Ree found that long-distance migration in emberizoid passerines (a lineage of New World migratory birds which includes warblers, cardinals, sparrows and orioles) primarily evolved as birds in North America shifted their range south during the winter months, as opposed to north from the tropics during the summer. Their results suggest that the evolution of seasonal migration therefore promoted the colonization of birds from North America into the tropics.

This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Click here to read the study and here to read the University of Chicago press release. 

Benjamin Winger also received the Ernst Mayr award for this research at the 2014 Evolution meeting.