1. We used long-term capture-recapture-recovery data and a modelling approach developed by Burnham (1993) to test a priori predictions about sources of variation in annual survival rates and fidelity within a population of individually marked females in three species of European ducks from a breeding ground study site in Latvia. 2. True annual survival was higher for diving ducks (tufted duck 0-72, common pochard 0-65) and lower for northern shoveler (0-52). Survival of female diving ducks was positively correlated with mean winter temperatures at Western European wintering areas, the relationship being much stronger for pochard. 3. We present the first unbiased estimates of breeding fidelity and permanent emigration in European ducks. Estimated fidelity rates were high (0'88-1-0) and emigration rates low (0-0-12) for all three species, and we found strong evidence for age-specific differences in fidelity of pochards. Unusual long-distance (up to 2500 km) breeding dispersal movements that we found in female tufted ducks have not been documented in any other European waterfowl and are most probably a result of saturated nesting habitats. 4. Fidelity was a function of patch reproductive success in the previous year for all three species providing support for the idea that patch success is an important cue influencing fidelity. 5. Fidelity probability increased to 1.0 for shovelers during the last 12 years of study following provision of critical improvements in nesting habitats and suggested that habitat conditions and reproductive success determined site fidelity and settling patterns for shoveler and probably also influenced fidelity of the two other species. In predictable habitats, fidelity is a parameter that reflects the integration of fitness components and is thus a good quantity for assessing the effectiveness of habitat management actions.