Tropical forests are rapidly being lost across South East Asia and this is predicted to have severe implications for many of the region’s bird species. However, relationships between forest disturbance and avifaunal assemblages remain poorly understood, particularly on small island ecosystems such as those found in the biodiversity ‘hotspot’ of Wallacea. This study examines how avifaunal richness varies across a disturbance gradient in a forest reserve on Buton Island, South-East Sulawesi. Particular emphasis is placed upon examining responses in endemic and red-listed species with high conservation importance. Results indicate that overall avian richness increases between primary and 30-year old regenerating secondary forest and then decreases through disturbed secondary forest, but is highest in cleared farmland. However, high species richness in farmland does not signify high species distinctiveness; bird community composition here differs significantly from that found in forest sites, and is poor in supporting forest specialists and endemic species. Certain large-bodied endemics such as the Knobbed Hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix) appear to be sensitive to moderate disturbance, with populations occurring at greatest density within primary forest. However, overall endemic species richness, as well as that of endemic frugivores and insectivores, is similar in primary and secondary forest types. Results indicate that well-established secondary forest in particular has an important role in supporting species with high conservational importance, possessing community composition similar to that found in primary forest and supporting an equally high richness of endemic species.