There is now abundant evidence that propagule pressure, a composite measure of the number of individuals released into the nonnative location that varies between introduction events, is the most consistent predictor of success in the establishment of exotic species. However, the reasons why we expect propagule pressure to be important – because larger propagules ameliorate the effects of demographic, environmental or genetic stochasticity, or of Allee effects – also predict an influence of species traits on success. Here, we use a quantitative meta-analytical approach to assess the effect of three categories of species-level traits in the successful establishment of nonnative bird species: traits relating to population growth rates, traits that predispose species to Allee effects, and traits that enable a species to cope with novel environments. Traits that predispose species to Allee effects tend to decrease introduction success, whereas traits that enable a species to cope with novel environments tend to increase success. The breadth of habitats a species uses has the strongest mean effect of all variables analysed here. Mean effects for traits relating to population growth rates conflict in sign: in general, success is greater for species with large body mass whereas clutch size is not consistently related to establishment success. These results suggest a likely influence of some species-level traits on exotic bird establishment success, especially traits that enable a species to cope with novel environments. We suggest that considering such traits in terms of the small-population paradigm from conservation biology may be a productive avenue for future research.