Reproductive problems, including congenital malformations, reduced hatching success, and decreased survival of hatchlings, have been observed in colonial-nesting water birds at the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (SFBNWR). Twenty-four black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) eggs were collected from SFBNWR in 1983. Twelve of these were collected from separate nests when late-stage embryos were pipping, and an additional egg was randomly collected from each nest for organochlorine analysis. Overt anomalies and skeletal defects were not apparent. Embryonic weights (with partially absorbed yolk sacs removed) were 15% lower (p lt 0.05) in SFBNWR embryos compared to control embryos from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC). Crown-rump length and femur length were shorter for SFBNWR embryos. The geometric mean polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentration in SFBNWR eggs was 4.1 ppm wet weight, with a range of 0.8-52.0 ppm. A negative correlation (r = - 0.61; p lt 0.05) existed between embryonic weight and log-transformed PCB residues in whole eggs collected from the same nest at SFBNWR, suggesting a possible impact of PCBs on embryonic growth. A correlation with embryonic weight did not occur for DDE (1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene) residues. Liver microsomal aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase activity was neither significantly elevated nor correlated with PCB, DDE, or PCB plus DDE log-transformed residues. It is unknown whether the apparent association between PCBs and lower weight is persistent through hatching.