Small and isolated populations are usually assumed to be at a high risk of extinction due to environmental or demographic stochasticity, genetic problems, or too little immigration. In birds, natal dispersal is usually female-biased, but the consequences of such a pattern on vulnerability to extinction of isolated populations has not received much attention before. In this paper I derive predictions as to how female-biased natal dispersal may differentially affect the extinction risk of populations and species with contrasting distributions, migratory behaviours, life histories and mating systems. Female-biased dispersal will lead to male-biased sex ratios in small, isolated or fragmented populations, in particular because recent research has shown that females often have a limited ability to search for mates and may therefore effectively be lost from the breeding population if they disperse into areas empty of conspecifics. I reviewed published studies on birds and found that a high proportion of unpaired males is common in isolated populations or populations in small habitat fragments. Dispersal of females may therefore increase the vulnerability to extinction of small or isolated populations, or populations at the periphery of a species’ distribution range. I also predict that vulnerability to extinction should be greater for migratory than for resident species and greater for short-lived than for long-lived species because of differences in the time available for females to locate unpaired males. Further, extinction risk may also be greater for birds than for mammals due to differences in which sex disperses and patterns of parental care. Finally, mating system will also affect vulnerability to extinction when natal dispersal leads to biased sex ratios. I review available evidence for these predictions (e.g. songbird declines in North America) and discuss implications for conservation.