Summary Model choice and variable selection are issues of major concern in practical regression analyses, arising in many biometric applications such as habitat suitability analyses, where the aim is to identify the influence of potentially many environmental conditions on certain species. We describe regression models for breeding bird communities that facilitate both model choice and variable selection, by a boosting algorithm that works within a class of geoadditive regression models comprising spatial effects, nonparametric effects of continuous covariates, interaction surfaces, and varying coefficients. The major modeling components are penalized splines and their bivariate tensor product extensions. All smooth model terms are represented as the sum of a parametric component and a smooth component with one degree of freedom to obtain a fair comparison between the model terms. A generic representation of the geoadditive model allows us to devise a general boosting algorithm that automatically performs model choice and variable selection.