High concentrations of boron (B) have been associated with irrigation drainwater and aquatic plants consumed by waterfowl. Day-old mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) ducklings received an untreated diet (controls) or diets containing 100, 400 or 1,600 ppm B as boric acid. Survival, growth and food consumption were measured for 10 weeks. At termination, blood and tissue samples were collected for biochemical assays and histological examination. The highest dietary concentration of B caused 10% mortality, decreased overall growth and the rate of growth (sexes combined), whereas lower concentrations of B altered growth only in females. Food consumption water lower during the first 3 weeks in the 1,600-ppm group and during the second week in all B-treated groups compared to controls. Hematocrit and hemaglobin were lower and plasma calcium concentration higher in the 1,600-ppm group compared to controls. Plasma triglyceride concentration was elevated in all B-treated groups. Brain B concentration increased to 25 times that of controls in the 1,600-ppm group. Brain ATP decreased with increasing dietary B. Brain acetylcholinesterase activity and total ATPase activity (in males) were elevated and protein concentration lowered in the 1,600-ppm group. Boron accumulated less in the liver than in the brain but resulted in an initial elevation of hepatic glutathione. These findings, in combination with altered duckling behavior, suggest that concentrations of B occurring in aquatic plants could adversely affect normal duckling development.