I was studying birds' migration as a type of instinctive behaviour. But my textbook points out that other than for warm climate and easy food, migratory bird migrate to places where their ancestors lived.

Is it a real point? Or the writers just made it up.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ An anecdotal comment, as it doesn't address your question about birds: This is the case in eels. European (Anguilla anguilla ) + American (A. rostrata ) eels are sister taxa; both go to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. The working hypothesis is that the original N. Atlantic eel pop migrated through the Tethys Sea to the spreading Atlantic, and spawned in what would become the modern Sargasso. As the Atlantic Basin spread through continental drift, the 2 spp differentiated--but both still return to the Sargasso to spawn. ref: Aoyama, J. 2009. Aqua-BioSci. Monogr. (ABSM), Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1–42 $\endgroup$
    – Kara
    Apr 16 '17 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ do migratory birds have same kind of analogous history? $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 4:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ancestors can refer to 2 generations ago and to 1000ds of years ago. that's why my interpretation of it was vague. $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ haven't the foggiest. @comprehensible -- I actually really liked your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Kara
    Apr 17 '17 at 16:09

Edited for a different consideration: Do birds migrate to and from zones defined only by ecological and climate choice, or do they evolve to migrate away to and from an ancestral home?

Later studies of migration searched for evolutionary definitions of bird migration as opposed to ecology/geography definitions which were the initial focus. Various theories of evolution and migration have been developed, although ice ages and climate change make the definition of a bird ancestral land vague.

If you search google for "sister taxa, migration, evolution" you will find a lot

A study for American Thrush species starts with previous research:

  • range expansion and speciation for the evolution of long-distance migration. In brief, resident, tropical species expand their ranges into the seasonal subtropics. Further range expansion into temperate areas due to competition and other selective pressures creates a partially migratory species. The partially migratory birds continue to expand into higher latitudes, where they breed successfully; migratory behavior becomes fi xed (Stiles 1980).

It's results for the thrush are very complex, and you can see the map and the conclusions at the end, which state that:

  • The migratory species tree does not have a clear single ancestor.
  • The ancestor's range was probably very widespread, over 1000ds of kilometers.
  • They migrated by stepping stone, rather than by diet constraints of being frugivorous versus insectivorous.

http://www.sonoma.edu/users/g/girman/outlawetal2003.pdf also http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1642/0004-8038%282007%29124%5B410%3AASROMM%5D2.0.CO%3B2?journalCode=tauk

The data is erased in history, the migration routes and maps are very complex, the ancestral homeland shifts as forests and boreal ranges change latitude, so it's a balance in between the ability for birds to have fixed ancestral lands, given their great mobility, and the speed of their evolution. For the moment there are some theories on mechanisms and causes for selection by migratory advantage which are not general enough to apply to many clades of bird.

for precise and recent return to homeland:

Yes it's absolutely true, that many birds return to the exact same nest in Europe for example after wintering in Africa, and they also return to the same cliff/forest as where their parents were born, and some species vaguely follow the flocks very broad zones:

One study showed that most swallows returned to the same colony, with 44 per cent of pairs reoccupying the same nest. “This is remarkable given the length of a swallow’s return migration from its wintering grounds in South Africa,” says Rob Robinson, associate director of research at the BTO. Robinson has studied this iconic species’ unusually strong nest-faithfulness, a phenomenon called natal philopatry.


  • $\begingroup$ I don't think your answer really answer s my question. have u read Kara's comment? My question is do migratory birds have same kind of analogous history? $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ some birds have specialized into migrators millions of years ago, like Geese, and some of them are more generalized species, like thrush, with recent ancestry that can be studied. There are geese in hawaii and S africa. The hawaiian goose may have evolved from an off-course flock that arrived there 500,000 years ago. euro and ozzy swan also demonstrates geography vagueness of bird origins, and euro small bird species ranges are normally pan european for 1000ds of km so it makes the geography of ancestry complex, same as eels except radiative/ ranges that change easily. $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ Now it's a very nice answer. $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '17 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, someone knowledgeable about evolution of bird ecology would give a summary of different types of migrating species, coastal, forest, boreal, tropical, thrush, goose, range geography and climate change, which selective pressures are prevalent for temps and predators in different ranges and seasonal foods, and combine that knowledge with current research of migration genetics and evolution to give a very good text about it, it would be interesting to read an actual textbook chapter on evolution of migration with examples and theory. At my town have 1000ds HiRondElles which are martins. $\endgroup$ Apr 18 '17 at 3:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.