Ungulate populations exhibiting partial migration present a unique opportunity to explore the causes of the general phenomenon of migration. The European roe deer Capreolus capreolus is particularly suited for such studies due to a wide distribution range and a high level of ecological plasticity. In this study we undertook a comparative analysis of roe deer GPS location data from a representative set of European ecosystems available within the EURODEER collaborative project. We aimed at evaluating the ecological factors affecting migration tactic (i.e. occurrence) and pattern (i.e. timing, residence time, number of migratory trips). Migration occurrence varied between and within populations and depended on winter severity and topographic variability. Spring migrations were highly synchronous, while the timing of autumn migrations varied widely between regions, individuals and sexes. Overall, roe deer were faithful to their summer ranges, especially males. In the absence of extreme and predictable winter conditions, roe deer seemed to migrate opportunistically, in response to a tradeoff between the costs of residence in spatially separated ranges and the costs of migratory movements. Animals performed numerous trips between winter and summer ranges which depended on factors influencing the costs of movement such as between-range distance, slope and habitat openness. Our results support the idea that migration encompasses a behavioural continuum, with one-trip migration and residence as its end points, while commuting and multi-trip migration with short residence times in seasonal ranges are intermediate tactics. We believe that a full understanding of the variation in tactics of temporal separation in habitat use will provide important insights on migration and the factors that influence its prevalence.