Abstract We sequenced mitochondrial DNA from four protein-coding genes for 26 taxa to test W. E. Lanyon's hypothesis of intergeneric relationships and character evolution in the Empidonax group of tyrant flycatchers. Three genera in this group ( Empidonax, Contopus, and Sayornis) successfully occupy north temperate habitats for breeding, while the remaining genera ( Mitrephanes, Cnemotriccus, Aphanotriccus, Lathrotriccus, and Xenotriccus) are restricted to neotropical latitudes. Lanyon hypothesized two major clades in the group based on differences in syringeal morphology and proposed relationships among genera using a combination of morphologic, behavioral, and allozymic characters. The mtDNA data strongly support Lanyon's division of genera into two clades. In addition, the molecular and nonmolecular data sets agree in uniting Aphanotriccus and Lathrotriccus as sister taxa, with Cnemotriccus as basal to these genera. Species of Aphanotriccus, Lathrotriccus, and Cnemotriccus form a clade that exploits a distinctive nesting niche relative to other members of the Empidonax group. Within the second major clade, mtDNA sequences support a reconstruction based on allozymes that places Contopus and Empidonax as sister taxa. This hypothesis contradicts that of Lanyon, who allied Contopus with Mitrephanes on the basis of similarity in foraging mode. Genera in the Empidonax group are members of a larger assemblage that radiated in South America. Occupancy of temperate habitats by certain genera in this group is coincident with their evolution of migratory behavior and with independent diversification in foraging modes that reduces potential competition in sympatry.