Abstract The circular distribution of the willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus around the Baltic Sea shares many features with the classic examples of ring species; however, the system is much younger. It has previously been shown that a secondary contact zone is located in central Scandinavia, where there are narrow clines for several morphological traits coincident with a migratory divide. Here we analyse multiple traits and genes from > 1700 males captured on breeding territories at 77 sites spread around the Baltic Sea to test the following hypothesis. If the secondary contact zone in Scandinavia is a result of divergence in two allopatric refuge populations during the last glaciation, we expect to find a similar secondary contact zone somewhere else around the circular distribution. Our results show that the trait clines were wider and displaced from each other along the eastern side of the Baltic Sea. Analyses of 12 microsatellite loci confirmed that the genome is very similar between the terminal forms (F(ST) = 0). Two AFLP-derived markers filtered out from a genomic scan instead appear to be maintained by selection. These markers exhibited steep clines at the secondary contact zone in Scandinavia, but as for the phenotypic traits, had vastly different cline centres east of the Baltic Sea. The trait clines along the ring distribution outside the Scandinavian secondary contact zone thus seem to have been shaped by independent action of selection or drift during the process of postglacial colonization.