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Reduced habitat suitability and landscape connectivity in a songbird migratory divide

Cite this dataset

Justen, Hannah; Lee-Yaw, Julie; Delmore, Kira (2022). Reduced habitat suitability and landscape connectivity in a songbird migratory divide [Dataset]. Dryad.



Seasonal migration is a common phenomenon in animals and connects geographically distant ecosystems. Considerable variation has been documented in this behaviour and migratory divides (contact zones between populations that use different routes to navigate around ecological barriers) are an example of this. Migratory divides could have important implications for ecological speciation as hybrids in divides take intermediate routes and it has been predicted that these routes will be ecologically inferior as they bring hybrids over barriers that parental forms avoid. We provide the first test of this prediction here using a well-characterized divide between coastal and inland subspecies of Swainson’s thrushes.


North, Central and South America

Time period


Major taxa studied



We used ecological niche models and analyses of landscape connectivity to predict suitable habitat for coastal and inland thrushes on migration and identify optimal migratory routes. We compared estimates of habitat suitability and landscape connectivity along the actual migratory routes of birds tracked with light-level geolocators.


Consistent with predictions for migratory divides, niche models estimated lower habitat suitability in the intermediate range between the migratory ranges of parental forms. Furthermore, our models of landscape connectivity predicted optimal routes that circumvent this intermediate area. Birds taking intermediate routes used stopover sites of lower predicted habitat suitability than birds migrating on either side of the divide and overlapped less with optimal paths.

Main conclusions

Our results support the prediction that intermediate routes of hybrids in migratory divides are ecologically inferior to those of parental forms. This finding suggests ecological differences are helping to maintain divides and could have broad implications, with divides shaping the distribution and maintenance of species boundaries globally and across many taxonomic groups.

Usage notes

The readme file contains explanations for variables and abbreviations used in the datasets and information on where the data was downloaded from.