This study was conducted to determine selenium (Se) concentrations in tissues of birds collected during the 1983-1985 nesting seasons at Kesterson Reservoir (an area receiving high-Se irrigation drainage water), compare them with birds from reference sites within California's Central Valley, and relate them to food-chain Se concentrations at the study sites. Within years, Se in livers of adult birds collected early and late in the nesting season changed significantly at both Kesterson and the primary reference site (Volta Wildlife Area). These changes were related to the length of time birds had been present at the study sites and the associated accumulation (at Kesterson) or depuration (at Volta) of Se. All species showed significant location differences, which were greatest in species that occurred at Kesterson throughout the year or fed more consistently within the reservoir. There were few species differences in Se for birds at the reference sites (where food-chain Se levels were 'normal' [ < 2?g/g, dry wt]). At Kesterson (where bird foods generally contained >50 ?/g Se/g), species patterns varied by year, probably because of varying periods of residence and other factors. Se concentrations in kidneys and livers of American coots (Fulica americana) were significantly correlated (r = 0.9845); Se concentrations in breast muscles and livers of juvenile ducks (Anas spp.) also were correlated (r = 0.8280). Body weights of adult coots were negatively correlated with liver Se concentration. Late-season resident breeding birds or pre-fledging juvenile birds reared at a site usually provided the best indication of site-specific Se bioaccumulation.