Genome structure has been found to be highly conserved between distantly related birds and recent data for a limited part of the genome suggest that this is true also for the gene order (synteny) within chromosomes. Here, we confirm that synteny is maintained for large chromosomal regions in chicken and a passerine bird, the great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus, with few rearrangements, but in contrast show that the recombination-based linkage map distances differ substantially between these species. We assigned a chromosomal location based on sequence similarity to the chicken genome sequence to a set of inicrosatellite loci mapped in a pedigree of great reed warblers. We detected homologous loci on 14 different chromosomes corresponding to chicken chromosomes Gga1-5, 7-9, 13, 19, 20, 24, 25, and Z. It is known that 2 passerine macrochromosomes correspond to the chicken chromosome Gga1. Homology of 2 different great reed warbler linkage groups (LG13 and LG5) to Gga1 allowed us to locate the split to a position between 20.8 and 84.8 Mb on Gga1. Data from the 5 chromosomal regions (on Gga1, 2, 3, 5, and Z) with 3 or more homologous loci showed that synteny was conserved with the exception of 2 large previously unreported inversions on Gga1/LG5 and Gga2/LG3, respectively. Recombination data from the 9 chromosomal regions in which we identified 2 or more homologous loci (accounting for the inversions) showed that the linkage map distances in great reed warblers were only 6.3% and 13.3% of those in chickens for males and females, respectively. This is likely to reflect the true interspecific difference in recombination rate because our markers were not located in potentially low-recombining regions: several linkage groups covered a substantial part of their corresponding chicken chromosomes and were not restricted to centromeres. We conclude that recombination rates may differ strongly between bird species with highly conserved genome structure and synteny and that the chicken linkage map may not be suitable, in terms of genetic distances, as a model for all bird species.