This paper reviews the consequences of forest fragmentation for the dynamics of bird populations. Owing to high mobility and large home ranges, birds usually perceive fragmented forests in a finegrained manner, i.e. embrace several forest fragments in functional home ranges. On a regional scale, however, coarse-grained clusters of fine-grained fragments (hierarchical fragmentation may sub-divide bird populations into isolated demes, which enter a domain of metapopulation dynamics. Distinctions are made between pure distance-area or population-level effects and more indirect community-level effects due to changes in landscape composition. Distance-area effects, such as insularization and decreasing fragment size, directly prevent dispersal and reduce population size. Landscape effects, such as reduced fragment-matrix and interior-edge ratios, increase the pressure from surrounding predators, competitors, parasites and disease. In short, forest fragmentation can be viewed as a two-step process. Initially, fine-grained fragmentation triggers distance-area and landscape effects on a local scale, which in turn, results in a range retraction of a population to non-fragmented or less fragmented parts of a region. At a certain point, non-fragmented areas become so widely spaced out that regional distance-area effects come into operation, giving rise to metapopulation dynamics. Although few bird metapopulations have yet been documented, metapopulation dynamics probably is a common characteristic of bird populations confined to ‘hierarchical’ fragmented forests.