1. We examine causes and consequences of natal dispersal within a metapopulation of house sparrows Passer domesticus in an archipelago in Northern Norway where a large proportion of the individuals is colour-ringed.
2. Less than 10% of the fledglings dispersed, i.e. left their natal island.
3. Dispersal was female biased and almost exclusively performed by juveniles.
4. The probability of natal dispersal was not related either to the body condition or the body mass of the juvenile. Similarly, neither clutch size nor hatching date explained a significant proportion of the variance in the probability of dispersal.
5. The probability of male natal dispersal was related to the rank of the fledgling in the size-hierarchy within the brood. Low ranking individuals that hatched early in the season were more likely to disperse.
6. In both sexes, the survival of dispersers at the island of establishment was higher than among the residents on that island. Similarly, dispersers survived better than adults that remained on their island of birth.
7. These results suggest that dispersal may be an adaptive strategy to avoid poor conditions in the natal area.