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1. Biodiversity maintenance in human-altered landscapes (HALs) depends on the species turnover among localities, but the patterns and determinants of β-diversity in HALs are poorly known. In fact, declines, increases and neutral shifts in β-diversity have all been documented, depending on the landscape, ecological group and spatial scale of analysis.2. We shed some light on this controversy by assessing the patterns and predictors of bird β-diversity across multiple spatial scales considering forest specialist and habitat generalist bird assemblages.3. We surveyed birds from 144 point counts in 36 different forest sites across two landscapes with different amount of forest cover in the Brazilian Atlantic forest. We analysed β-diversity among points, among sites and between landscapes with multiplicative diversity partitioning of Hill numbers. We tested whether β-diversity among points was related to within-site variations in vegetation structure, and whether β-diversity among sites was related to site location and/or to differences among sites in vegetation structure and landscape composition (i.e. per cent forest and pasture cover surrounding each site).4. β-diversity between landscapes was lower than among sites and among points in both bird assemblages. In forest specialist birds, the landscape with less forest cover showed the highest β-diversity among sites (bird differentiation among sites), but generalist birds showed the opposite pattern. At the local scale, however, the less forested landscape showed the lowest β-diversity among points (bird homogenization within sites), independently of the bird assemblage. β-diversity among points was weakly related to vegetation structure, but higher β-diversity values were recorded among sites that were more isolated from each other, and among sites with higher differences in landscape composition, particularly in the less forested landscape.5. Our findings indicate that patterns of bird β-diversity vary across scales and are strongly related to landscape composition. Bird assemblages are shaped by both environmental filtering and dispersal limitation, particularly in less forested landscapes. Conservation and management strategies should therefore prevent deforestation in this biodiversity hotspot.This study demonstrates that shifts in β-diversity in human-altered tropical landscapes depend on landscape composition, spatial scale and ecological groups. The extirpation of forest specialist birds was compensated by the proliferation of habitat generalist species in the less forested landscape, demonstrating the existence of compensation dynamics in the study system.