The typically repetitive nature of the sex-limited chromosome means that it is often excluded from or poorly covered in genome assemblies, hindering studies of evolutionary and population genomic processes in non-recombining chromosomes. Here, we present a draft assembly of the non-recombining region of the collared flycatcher W chromosome, containing 46 genes without evidence of female-specific functional differentiation. Survival of genes during W chromosome degeneration has been highly non-random and expression data suggest that this can be attributed to selection for maintaining gene dose and ancestral expression levels of essential genes. Re-sequencing of large population samples revealed dramatically reduced levels of within-species diversity and elevated rates of between-species differentiation (lineage sorting), consistent with low effective population size. Concordance between W chromosome and mitochondrial DNA phylogenetic trees demonstrates evolutionary stable matrilineal inheritance of this nuclear-cytonuclear pair of chromosomes. Our results show both commonalities and differences between W chromosome and Y chromosome evolution.