Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 1515-1524 ABSTRACT: Sexual transmission is an important mode of disease propagation, yet its mechanisms remain largely unknown in wild populations. Birds comprise an important model for studying sexually transmitted microbes because their cloaca provides a potential for both gastrointestinal pathogens and endosymbionts to become incorporated into ejaculates. We experimentally demonstrate in a wild population of kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) that bacteria are transmitted during copulation and affect the composition and diversity of female bacterial communities. We used an anti-insemination device attached to males in combination with a molecular technique (automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis) that describes bacterial communities. After inseminations were experimentally blocked, the cloacal communities of mates became increasingly dissimilar. Moreover, female cloacal diversity decreased and the extinction of mate-shared bacteria increased, indicating that female cloacal assemblages revert to their pre-copulatory state and that the cloaca comprises a resilient microbial ecosystem.