Recent changes in migration distances and propensity for migration associated with climate change have suggested that these traits can evolve rapidly. Part of this rapid response to selection may be due to maternal effects that facilitate changes in the underlying physiology of migration. We hypothesize that exposure to large amounts of antioxidants in the egg will facilitate assimilation and metabolism of dietary antioxidants later in life, thereby allowing offspring to better cope with extreme strenuous exercise such as the bursts of rapid migration shown during spring migration. We tested the relationship between temporal change in mean arrival date of migratory birds since 1960 and concentrations of 2 antioxidants in the eggs of 14 species of birds. Only egg concentration of vitamin E was a significant predictor of advancement in spring arrival date. Furthermore, we experimentally manipulated egg content of vitamin E in barn swallows Hirundo rustica and subsequently recorded arrival date of yearling male recruits. Arrival date advanced significantly by > 1 standard deviation due to treatment, providing experimental evidence for a relationship between egg concentration of vitamin E and subsequent migration behavior. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that maternal effects have played an important role in the evolution of bird migration.