Relationships between events in one period of the annual cycle and behaviour in subsequent seasons are key determinants of individual life histories and population dynamics. However, studying such associations is challenging, given the difficulties in following individuals across seasons, particularly in migratory species. Relationships between breeding performance and subsequent winter ecology are particularly poorly understood, yet are likely to be profoundly important because of the costs of reproduction. Using geolocation technology, we show that black-legged kittiwakes that experienced breeding failure left their colony in southeast Scotland earlier than successful breeders. Moreover, a greater proportion of unsuccessful breeders (94% versus 53% successful) travelled over 3000 km to the West Atlantic, whereas fewer visited the East Atlantic (31% versus 80% successful), less than 1000 km from the colony. The two groups did not differ in the timing of return to the colony the following spring. However, 58 per cent of males made a previously undescribed long-distance pre-breeding movement to the central Atlantic. Our results demonstrate important links between reproductive performance and winter distribution, with significant implications for population dynamics. Furthermore, macro-scale segregation associated with breeding outcome is relevant to defining important wintering areas, in particular among declining species experiencing increasingly regular breeding failure.