There is growing evidence that post-copulatory sexual selection, mediated by sperm competition, influences the evolution of sperm phenotypes. Evidence for pre-copulatory sexual selection effects on sperm traits, on the other hand, is rather scarce. A recent paper on the pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, reported phenotypic associations between sperm length and two sexually selected male traits, i.e. plumage colour and arrival date, thus invoking pre-copulatory sexual selection for longer sperm. We were unable to replicate these associations with a larger data set from the same and two additional study populations; sperm length was not significantly related to either male plumage colour or arrival date. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in sperm length between populations despite marked differences in male plumage colour. We also found some evidence against the previously held assumption of longer sperm being qualitatively superior; longer sperm swam at the same speed as shorter sperm, but were less able to maintain speed over time. We argue that both empirical evidence and theoretical considerations suggest that the evolution of sperm morphology is not primarily associated with pre-copulatory sexual selection on male secondary sexual traits in this or other passerine bird species. The relatively large between-male variation in sperm length in this species is probably due to relaxed post-copulatory sexual selection.