There is considerable evidence to suggest that an animal's ability to access the appropriate resources at one time of year may profoundly restrict its performance at another. For migrants, wintering and breeding periods are often connected by refuelling or staging periods, critical (particularly for females) in attaining the body reserves required to ensure successful breeding. However in many instances there are differences in the extent to which different individuals gain access to the highest quality resources. Here we demonstrate how body condition in brent geese Branta bernicla hrota, during spring staging is related to differences in marine and terrestrial habitat utilisation (inferred from stable isotope analysis). Female birds with high fat scores feed to a greater extent on marine resources. Body mass and condition are also higher in individuals utilising more marine resources. Given that body mass at spring staging is correlated with reproductive success, the extent of marine habitat maybe critical to this population. Combining this with data from previous studies of dark-bellied brent geese Branta bernicla bernicla, we predict the potential impacts of spring staging resource utilisation on future breeding success. Although staging is of short duration compared to the other components of annual cycles of migratory species, our results suggest that the quality of staging grounds may be vitally important to population processes.