The use of forest habitats and migratory patterns are still unclear for tropical birds. Some are described herein for the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. Thus, our aim was to describe different patterns of forest habitat use by birds and classify the birds’ migration patterns for the northern Pantanal region, Brazil. From September 1999 to December 2003, we sampled four forest types, during which we collected standardised data with mist-net captures and point counts, with additional ad lib. observations. We recorded 214 bird species: 113 (52.8%) were total habitat generalists; 41 (19.2%) were forest generalists; 19 (8.9%) were flooded habitat specialists; and 28 (13.1%) were not classified due to the low number of records; three other categories of habitat use divide the remaining 6% of records. About half of the species showed some migratory behaviour, these were classified by us according to the season they spent in the area: 121 species (56.5%) as residents, 28 (13.1%) as run-off and dry migrants, 11 (5.1%) as run-off (winter) migrants, eight (3.7%) as dry (breeding) migrants, eight (3.7%) as dry and flooding (summer) migrants, eight (3.7%) as flooding migrants, three (1.4%) as flooding and run-off migrants, and 27 (12.6%) as uncommon. We constructed community occupancy models with six of the eight patterns of migration described; flooding migrants and run-off migrants were not modelled since the few species recorded also had very few detections. As expected, the model confirmed that species from all six tested migration patterns arrive and depart from the Pantanal across the seasons. Contrary to most Neotropical forests, there was a high percentage (43.5%) of non-resident species. The results show the need of investing heavily in preserving different landscape units within the Pantanal, but also in the surrounding Cerrado region, in order to conserve resident and short distance intra-tropical migrants.