Understanding how genetic variation in the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) is geographically structured is informative because this broadly distributed North American bird is increasingly used as a model for studies of mating systems, life-history traits, and physiology. We explored patterns of phylogeographic differentiation across the Tree Swallow's breeding range by using nine microsatellite loci and a mitochondrial DNA sequence marker. Contrary to this species' high population-level variation in life-history traits and other ecologically important characteristics, we found no genetic structuring across the majority of its distribution, spanning Tennessee, New York, and Alaska, but we found that birds from California form a distinct yet subtly differentiated genetic cluster. The Tree Swallow can be characterized as a species with both continent-wide genetic panmixia and slight differentiation at one edge of its breeding distribution. This pattern of genetic variation has implications for understanding the underlying basis of geographic variation in this species' life history and other phenotypic traits.
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