Studies in Iceland (66°N) and Svalbard (78°N), combined with the results of previous work, allowed geographical comparisons of different aspects of the breeding biology of the Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima, testing predictions that they may be related to latitude and altitude (here taken as surrogates for climatic severity). The breeding density was lowest in the polar deserts of Franz Josef Land (82°N) and highest in coastal Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea colonies in Iceland where the terns perhaps afforded protection from predators. There was no difference in the percentages of 1-year-old (first-year) birds in the breeding populations in Svalbard and Iceland. Time of breeding was related to both latitude and altitude, being later at higher latitudes and altitudes. In Iceland, larger males and males over 1 year old nested earlier than small males and 1-year-old males, respectively. Relaying occurred in Iceland but it was not observed in Svalbard. There were no geographical differences in clutch size. Egg size was related to female size in Svalbard. There were also geographical differences in egg size associated with female size (wing length), with the largest eggs in Iceland and smallest in south Norway. Males usually attended broods and the rates at which females deserted their broods were similar in Iceland and Svalbard. Chick growth rates were similar for Iceland and Franz Josef Land. Thus, in breeding biology, Purple Sandpipers varied geographically only in breeding density, time of nesting and egg size, which was associated with female size.