The Great reed warbler (GRW) and the Seychelles warbler (SW) are congeners with markedly different demographic histories. The GRW is a normal outbred bird species while the SW population remains isolated and inbred after undergoing a severe population bottleneck. We examined variation at Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I exon 3 using restriction fragment length polymorphism, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing. Although genetic variation was higher in the GRW, considerable variation has been maintained in the SW. The ten exon 3 sequences found in the SW were as diverged from each other as were a random sub-sample of the 67 sequences from the GRW. There was evidence for balancing selection in both species, and the phylogenetic analysis showing that the exon 3 sequences did not separate according to species, was consistent with transspecies evolution of the MHC.