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© 2015 British Ornithologists' Union. The ecology of cavity nesting in passerine birds has been studied extensively, yet there are no phylogenetic comparative studies that quantify differences in life history traits between cavity- and open-nesting birds within a passerine family. We test existing hypotheses regarding the evolutionary significance of cavity nesting in the Old World flycatchers (Muscicapidae). We used a multi-locus phylogeny of 252 species to reconstruct the evolutionary history of cavity nesting and to quantify correlations between nest types and life history traits. Within a phylogenetic generalized linear model framework, we found that cavity-nesting species are larger than open-nesting species and that maximum clutch sizes are larger in cavity-nesting lineages. In addition to differences in life history traits between nest types, species that breed at higher latitudes have larger average and maximum clutch sizes and begin to breed later in the year. Gains and losses of migratory behaviour have occurred far more often in cavity-nesting lineages than in open-nesting taxa, suggesting that cavity nesting may have played a crucial role in the evolution of migratory behaviour. These findings identify important macro-evolutionary links between the evolution of cavity nesting, clutch size, interspecific competition and migratory behaviour in a large clade of Old World songbirds.

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