The population of common guillemots Uria aalge on Skomer Island, Wales has been monitored since 1963, and in the last 30 yr has increased at an almost constant rate of 5% yr−1. A previous attempt to model the population based on intrinsic demographic parameters estimated over just five years failed to explain the observed population increase, probably because the estimate of juvenile survival was too low. This raised the possibility that immigration fuelled the population increase. Here we use > 30 yr of detailed field observations to re-estimate key population parameters (productivity, adult survival and juvenile survival) in order to model the population. We show that the observed rate of increase can be explained by these intrinsic parameters, and we therefore conclude that immigration is not necessary to generate the observed population growth.