Sex chromosomes often bear distinct patterns of genetic variation due to unique patterns of inheritance and demography. The processes of mutation, recombination, genetic drift and selection also influence rates of evolution on sex chromosomes differently than autosomes. Measuring such differences provides information about how these processes shape genomic variation and their roles in the origin of species. To test hypotheses and predictions about patterns of autosomal and sex-linked genomic diversity and differentiation, we measured population genetic statistics within and between populations and subspecies of the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) and performed explicit comparisons between autosomal and Z-linked genomic regions. We first tested for evidence of low Z-linked genetic diversity and high Z-linked population differentiation relative to autosomes, then for evidence that the Z chromosome bears greater ancestry information due to faster lineage sorting. Finally, we investigated geographical clines across hybrid zones for evidence that the Z chromosome is resistant to introgression due to selection against hybrids. We found evidence that the barn swallow mating system, demographic history and linked selection each contribute to low Z-linked diversity and high Z-linked differentiation. While incomplete lineage sorting is rampant across the genome, our results indicate faster sorting of ancestral polymorphism on the Z. Finally, hybrid zone analyses indicate barriers to introgression on the Z chromosome, suggesting that sex-linked traits are important in reproductive isolation, especially in migratory divide regions. Our study highlights how selection, gene flow and demography shape sex-linked genetic diversity and underlines the relevance of the Z chromosome in speciation.