Abstract In many species, individuals do not attain their full adult coloration until one or several years after reaching sexual maturity, and this signaling of juvenile status is thought to enable young individuals to avoid aggression from older, dominant conspecifics. We propose that hybridization may be one of several costs and benefits associated with such delayed maturation. We tested this idea in a hybrid zone of collared (Ficedula albicollis) and pied (F. hypoleuca) flycatchers on the Baltic islands of Öland and Gotland. One-year-old (subadult) male collared flycatchers differed from older birds in many plumage traits, and approached male pied flycatchers in phenotype. On both islands, subadult male collared flycatchers hybridized at a higher rate than adults. Mate-choice experiments in aviaries suggest that this difference is at least partly due to female pied flycatchers having a preference for subadults when constrained to choose a heterospecific mate. Because novel morphologies are often derived from changes in ontology, juvenile forms may resemble adults of closely related taxa. When such juveniles are reproductively mature, their phenotypic similarity to the adults of closely related species may increase their risk of hybridization.