Land-use change is one of the main drivers of current and likely future biodiversity loss. Therefore, understanding how species are affected by it is crucial to guide conservation decisions. Species respond differently to land-use change, possibly related to their traits. Using pan-tropical data on bird occurrence and abundance across a human land-use intensity gradient, we tested the effects of seven traits on observed responses. A likelihood-based approach allowed us to quantify uncertainty in modelled responses, essential for applying the model to project future change. Compared with undisturbed habitats, the average probability of occurrence of bird species was 7.8 per cent and 31.4 per cent lower, and abundance declined by 3.7 per cent and 19.2 per cent in habitats with low and high human land-use intensity, respectively. Five of the seven traits tested affected the observed responses significantly: long-lived, large, non-migratory, primarily frugivorous or insectivorous forest specialists were both less likely to occur and less abundant in more intensively used habitats than short-lived, small, migratory, non-frugivorous/insectivorous habitat generalists. The finding that species responses to land use depend on their traits is important for understanding ecosystem functioning, because species’ traits determine their contribution to ecosystem processes. Furthermore, the loss of species with particular traits might have implications for the delivery of ecosystem services.