Across landscapes, shifts in species composition often co‐occur with shifts in structural or abiotic habitat features, making it difficult to disentangle the role of competitors and environment on assessments of patch quality. Using over two decades of rodent community data from a long‐term experiment, we show that a small, ubiquitous granivore (Chaetodipus penicillatus ) shifted its use of different experimental treatments with the establishment of a novel competitor, C. baileyi . Shifts in residency, probability of movement between patches, and the arrival of new individuals in patches altered which treatment supported the highest abundances of C. penicillatus . Our results suggest that the establishment of a new species worsened the quality of the originally preferred treatment, likely by impacting resource availability. Paradoxically, the presence of the new species also increased C. penicillatus’ use of the less preferred treatment, potentially through shifts in the competitive network on those plots.