Survival rates of tropical forest birds are widely assumed to be high relative to the survival rates of temperate forest birds. Much life-history theory is based on this assumption despite the lack of empirical data to support it. We provide the first detailed comparison of survival rates of tropical and temperate forest birds based on extensive data bases and modern capture-recapture models. We find no support for the conventional wisdom. Because clutch size is only one component of reproductive rate, the frequently assumed, simple association between clutch size and adult survival rates should not necessarily be expected. Our results emphasize the need to consider components of fecundity in addition to clutch size when comparing the life histories of tropical and temperate birds and suggest similar considerations in the development of vertebrate life-history theory.