The lethal toxicity of inorganic (HgCl2) and organic (CH3HgCl) mercury chloride was compared for Coturnix (Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica) of different ages from hatch through adulthood by single-dose acute oral and intramuscular injections and by a 5-d dietary trial. Sublethal mercury toxicity was studied by evaluation of plasma and brain cholinesterase activity. CH3HgCl was more toxic than HgCl2 in all tests at each age tested. LD50s consistently increased over the first 4 wk for both acute methods and both mercurials and then stabilized. The striking difference between single-dose acute and 5-d dietary tests was that CH3HgCl averaged about twice as toxic as HgCl2 by both acute methods, compared to 100 times as toxic by the dietary method. For example, at 2 wk of age, the oral LD50s for CH3HgCl and HgCl2 were 18 and 42 mg/kg and the dietary LC50s were 47 and 5086 ppm. When birds were fed HgCl2 and developed clinical signs of intoxication, they could recover once treatment was withdrawn; however, on CH3HgCl, clinical signs often commenced after treatment was withdrawn, and then actually intensified for several days and culminated in death.