The combined effects of rapid habitat loss, fragmentation and disturbance on tropical forest avifaunas have not been examined to date. The southern Amazonian ‘arc of deforestation’ marks the boundary of the most aggressive agricultural frontier in tropical forests worldwide. We sampled 21 disturbed and undisturbed primary forest patches, ranging in size from 1.2 to 14,476 ha, to elucidate the synergistic effects of both forest disturbance and fragmentation on bird community structure, and pinpoint which species were the “winners” and “losers” from this process. A number of forest patch metrics, derived from an independent remote sensing approach, explained much of the resulting presence/absence matrix. The bird community exhibited a highly nested structure, with small patches being most dissimilar from one another. Bird species differed in their response to both forest patch size and forest canopy perforation according to their dependence on closed-canopy primary forest. Forest patch geometry, which clearly modulated the shape of species–area relationships accounted for 83–96% of the variation in species richness, but forest habitat quality resulting from logging and surface-fire disturbance was also a significant predictor of species richness for the most forest-dependent taxa.