Urbanisation is one of the most extreme forms of environmental alteration, posing a major threat to biodiversity. We studied the effects of urbanisation on avian communities via a systematic review using hierarchical and categorical meta-analyses. Altogether, we found 42 observations from 37 case studies for species richness and 23 observations from 20 case studies for abundance. Urbanisation had an overall strong negative effect on bird species richness, whereas abundance increased marginally with urbanisation. There was no evidence that city size played a role in influencing the relationship between urbanisation and either species richness or abundance. Studies that examined long gradients (i.e. from urban to rural) were more likely to detect negative urbanisation effects on species richness than studies that considered short gradients (i.e. urban vs. suburban or urban vs. rural areas). In contrast, we found little evidence that the effect of urbanisation on abundance was influenced by gradient length. Effects of urbanization on species richness were more negative for studies including public green spaces (parks and other amenity areas) in the sampled landscapes. In contrast, studies performed solely in the urban matrix (i.e., no green spaces) revealed a strong positive effect on bird abundance. When performing subset analyses on urban-suburban, suburban-rural and suburban-natural comparisons, species richness decreased from natural to urban areas, but with a stronger decrease at the urban-suburban interface, whereas bird abundance showed a clear intermediate peak along the urban-rural gradient, although abundance in natural areas was comparable to that in suburban areas. This suggests that species loss happens especially at the urban-suburban interface, and that the highest abundances occur in suburban areas compared to urban or rural areas. Thus, our study shows the importance of suburban areas, where the majority of birds occur with fairly high species richness. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.