Applications of remote sensing for biodiversity conservation typically rely on image classifications that do not capture variability within coarse land cover classes. Here, we compare two measures derived from unclassified remotely sensed data, a measure of habitat heterogeneity and a measure of habitat composition, for explaining bird species richness and the spatial distribution of 10 species in a semi-arid landscape of New Mexico. We surveyed bird abundance from 1996 to 1998 at 42 plots located in the McGregor Range of Fort Bliss Army Reserve. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index values of two May 1997 Landsat scenes were the basis for among-pixel habitat heterogeneity (image texture), and we used the raw imagery to decompose each pixel into different habitat components (spectral mixture analysis). We used model averaging to relate measures of avian biodiversity to measures of image texture and spectral mixture analysis fractions. Measures of habitat heterogeneity, particularly angular second moment and standard deviation, provide higher explanatory power for bird species richness and the abundance of most species than measures of habitat composition. Using image texture, alone or in combination with other classified imagery-based approaches, for monitoring statuses and trends in biological diversity can greatly improve conservation efforts and habitat management.