1. Patterns of distribution of breeding austral migrant tyrant-flycatchers in temperate South America were quantified and analysed in conjunction with a variety of ecological, biogeographical and climatic variables.
2. The pattern of proportion of migratory to total breeding tyrannids was most strongly associated with latitude and two temperature variables, mean temperature of the coldest month and relative annual range of temperature.
3. The strong associations of latitude and temperature with percentage of migrants are consistent with the results of most similar investigations of the breeding distributions of migratory birds, both for migrants breeding in North America and in Europe, but contradict the hypothesis that habitat complexity plays a major role in structuring the proportion of migrants in communities of breeding birds.
4. The consistency of results among studies of migrants on different continents suggests that temperature and latitude, presumably a surrogate for one or more climatic variables, are globally significant factors in the breeding distributions of migratory birds.
5. The results for austral migrant flycatchers are consistent with the hypothesis that the prevalence of migration at any particular locality is ultimately dependent on the abundance of resources in the breeding season and the severity of the winter season, or on the difference in resource levels between summer and winter.
Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.