Geographic variation in phenotypes plays a key role in fundamental evolutionary processes such as local adaptation, population differentiation and speciation, but the selective forces behind it are rarely known. We found support for the hypothesis that geographic variation in plumage traits of the pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca is explained by character displacement with the collared flycatcher F. albicollis in the contact zone. The visual plumage traits of the pied flycatcher differed strongly from the more conspicuous collared flycatcher in a sympatric area but increased in conspicuousness with increasing distance to there. Phenotypic differentiation (PST ) was higher than that in neutral genetic markers (FST ) and the effect of geographic distance remained when statistically controlling for neutral genetic differentiation. This suggests that a cline created by character displacement and gene flow explains phenotypic variation across the distribution of this species. The different plumage traits of the pied flycatcher are strongly to moderately correlated, indicating that they evolve together. The flycatchers provide an example of plumage patterns diverging in two species that differ in several aspects of appearance. The divergence in sympatry and convergence in allopatry in these birds provides a possibility to study the evolutionary mechanisms behind the highly divergent avian plumage patterns.