Summary. Current statistical methods for estimating nest survival rates assume that nests are identical in their propensity to succeed. However, there are several biological reasons to question this assumption. For example, experience of the nest builder, number of nest helpers, genetic fitness of individuals, and site effects may contribute to an inherent disparity between nests with respect to their daily mortality rates. Ignoring such heterogeneity can lead to incorrect survival estimates. Our results show that constant survival models can seriously underestimate overall survival in the presence of heterogeneity. This paper presents a flexible random-effects approach to model heterogeneous nest survival data. We illustrate our methods through data on redwing blackbirds.