The effects of PCB congeners, PCB 126 (3,3',4,4',5-pentaCB) and PCB 77 (3,3'4,4'-tetraCB), were examined in chicken (Gallus gallus), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), and common tern (Sterna hirundo) embryos through hatching, following air cell injections on day 4. PCB 126 caused malformations and edema in chickens starting at 0.3 ppb, in kestrels at 2.3 ppb, but in terns only at levels affecting hatching success (44 ppb). Extent of edema was most severe in chickens and least in terns. Defects of the beak were common in all species, but with crossed beak most prevalent in terns. Effects on embryo growth were most apparent for PCB 126 in chickens and kestrels. The approximate LD50 for PCB 126 in chickens was 0.4 ppb, in kestrels was 65 ppb, and in terns was 104 ppb. The approximate LD50 for PCB 77 in chickens was 2.6 ppb and in kestrels was 316 ppb. Induction of cytochrome P450 associated monooxygenase activity (EROD activity) by PCB 126 in chick embryo liver was about 800 times more responsive than in tern and at least 1000 times more responsive than in kestrel. High concentrations of PCB 126 found in bald eagle eggs are nearly 20-fold higher than the lowest toxic concentration tested in kestrels. Concentrations of PCB 126 causing low level toxic effects in common tern eggs are comparable to highest levels in common terns and Forster's terns in the field, suggesting additional involvement of other compounds in the Great Lakes.