Fitness consequences of variation in body mass growth and body condition were studied in a sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis colony on Griend, Dutch Wadden Sea, during 1990-2000. Body mass increment during the linear growth phase predicted nestling survival probabilities accurately. Chicks growing less than 8 g per day had low survival probabilities until fledging, but within a range of 8-11 g per day growth only small effects on chick survival were observed. Effects of slow growth on survival becameobvious after about 10 days after hatching. Slow growing chicks reached a much lower fledging mass, whereas slow growth had only small effects on structural size at fledging. Body condition of the chicks was highly variable and had strong effects on survival until fledging. However, body condition during the nestling stage did not influence post-fledging survival. Body condition at fledging had no effects on post-fledging survival and did not affect final mass or body size. It is argued that low fledging mass can be overcome soon after fledging, as parents take their fledglings closer to the foraging areas, thereby avoiding high rates of kleptoparasitism by black-headed gulls Larus ridibundus.