Long-distance migrants wintering in tropical regions face a number of critical conservation threats throughout their lives, but seasonal estimates of key demographic parameters such as winter survival are rare. Using mist-netting-based mark-recapture data collected in coastal Costa Rica over a six-year period, we examined variation in within- and between-winter survivorship of the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea; 753 young and 376 adults banded), a declining neotropical habitat specialist that depends on threatened mangrove forests during the nonbreeding season. We derived parallel seasonal survivorship estimates for the Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis; 564 young and 93 adults banded), a cohabitant mangrove specialist that has not shown the same population decline in North America, to assess whether contrasting survivorship might contribute to the observed differences in the species’ population trajectories. Although average annual survival probability was relatively similar between the two species for both young and adult birds, monthly estimates indicated that relative to Northern Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warblers exhibited: greater interannual variation in survivorship, especially within winters; greater variation in survivorship among the three study sites; lower average between-winter survivorship, particularly among females, and; a sharp decline in between-winter survivorship from 2003 to 2009 for both age groups and both sexes. Rather than identifying one seasonal vital rate as a causal factor of Prothonotary Warbler population declines, our species comparison suggests that the combination of variable within-winter survival with decreasing between-winter survival demands a multi-seasonal approach to the conservation of this and other tropical-wintering migrants.