• birds;
  • cladogenesis;
  • distribution;
  • macroecology;
  • range size

Using coarse resolution data on the spatial distribution of the entire New World avifauna, we test for phylogenclic patterns in the mean and total geographic range sizes of taxa. The analyses reveal that (i) the species-range size distribution is only approximately normalized, and remains significantly left-skewed, under logarithmic transformation. Most variance in range sizes is explained at the level of species within genera; (ii) there is no effect of the age of taxa on mean clade range size, although older taxa are more likely to have larger total range sizes; (iii) there is some evidence that taxa comprising more species have larger total range sizes; (iv) there is little or no evidence for a relationship between rate of cladogenesis and range size. The results suggest that geographic range size is a labile trait, at least for New World birds, and that the influence of evolutionary history is only weakly detectable in the range size variation of extant taxa, at least at the scale of analysis used here. In addition to these conclusions, two general and important procedural issues emerge.