Mark-recapture data collected using mist nets over a 10-yr period in Trinidad were used to estimate adult survival rates for 17 species of forest passerines. Trinidadian survival rates (mean 65%, range 45%-85%) were significantly higher than published estimates for European (mean survival 52%, range 32%-71%) and North American (mean survival 53%, range 29%-63%) passerines of similar body size (equivalent to 45% higher mean life expectancy in Trinidad). These findings were confirmed after controlling for phylogeny using a method of independent contrasts. Transient and/or young birds were an important feature of the Trinidad data, and studies that fail to allow for the presence of such birds risk underestimating adult survival. This study lends support to the hypothesis that avian survival rates are higher in the humid tropics, although the magnitude of the difference may be smaller than previously suggested.