Identifying genes that underlie ecological traits will open exiting possibilities to study gene–environment interactions in shaping phenotypes and in measuring natural selection on genes. Evolutionary ecology has been pursuing these objectives for decades, but they come into reach now that next generation sequencing technologies have dramatically lowered the costs to obtain the genomic sequence information that is currently lacking for most ecologically important species. Here we describe how we generated over 2 billion basepairs of novel sequence information for an ecological model species, the great tit Parus major. We used over 16 million short sequence reads for the de novo assembly of a reference sequence consisting of 550 000 contigs, covering 2.5% of the genome of the great tit. This reference sequence was used as the scaffold for mapping of the sequence reads, which allowed for the detection of over 20 000 novel single nucleotide polymorphisms. Contigs harbouring 4272 of the single nucleotide polymorphisms could be mapped to a unique location on the recently sequenced zebra finch genome. Of all the great tit contigs, significantly more were mapped to the microchromosomes than to the intermediate and the macrochromosomes of the zebra finch, indicating a higher overall level of sequence conservation on the microchromosomes than on the other types of chromosomes. The large number of great tit contigs that can be aligned to the zebra finch genome shows that this genome provides a valuable framework for large scale genetics, e.g. QTL mapping or whole genome association studies, in passerines.