The fate of all eggs laid by Guillemots Uria aalge in seven study areas on the Isle of May was recorded in 12 consecutive seasons. The average success at each site was related to its physical characteristics, bird density, position on the cliff and availability of suitable habitat for ticks. The numbers of neighbours and walls, type of site, slope where the egg was incubated and distance from the top of the cliff all had a significant effect on both hatching and breeding success. Potential tick habitat had no significant effect. Much variation in hatching and breeding success remained unexplained. Sites used when the colony was less than half its current size and most frequently in the period 1984–1995 were the most successful. Since an average Guillemot pair remains together at a site for only 3–4 years. the consistently high success of many sites over a period of 10–12 years suggests that the most used sites were occupied by a succession of high-quality birds.