Secondary forests and exotic tree plantations are rapidly expanding across tropical landscapes, yet we currently have a very poor understanding of the value of these human-dominated forest landscapes for biodiversity conservation. Mist netting, point counts and transect walks were used to compare the bird communities of these habitats and neighboring primary forest in north-east Brazilian Amazonia. The extensive spatial scale of plantations and second-growth in our study area enabled us to implement a robust replicated design, with survey plots approximately two to three orders of magnitude larger than most previous studies of land-use change in the tropics, thus minimising the influence of the surrounding landscape. Species richness was highest in primary forest and lowest in Eucalyptus plantations, and community turnover between habitats was very high whether based upon matrices of relative abundance or species presence–absence data, and for both point count and mist net data. Monthly line-transect censuses conducted over an annual cycle showed an increase in the detection of canopy frugivores and seed predators during the peak of flower and fruit availability in primary forest, but failed to suggest that second-growth or Eucalyptus stands provide suitable foraging habitat at any time of the year. The conservation value of both secondary forest and plantations was low compared to conclusions from previous studies. Our results indicate that while large-scale reforestation of degraded land can increase regional levels of diversity, it is unlikely to conserve most primary forest species, such as understorey insectivores and canopy frugivores.