Salt gland function and osmoregulation in aquatic birds drinking hyperosmotic water has been suggested to be impaired by organophosphorus insecticides. To test this hypothesis, adult ducks (Anas rubripes) were provided various regimens of fresh or salt (1.5% NaCl) water (FW, SW) and mash containing vehicle or 21 ppm fenthion (Fn) on days 1-7 and 7-12 of this study. The 8 treatments (day 1-7:day 7-12) included :FW:FW, FW:FW+Fn, FW:SW, FW+Fn:SW, FW:SW+Fn, FW+Fn:SW+FN, SW;SW, and SW:5W+Fn. Ducks were bled by jugular venipuncture on days 1,7 and 12, and then sacrificed. Brain and salt gland acetylcholinesterase activities were substantially inhibited (44-52% and 14-26%) by Fn. However, plasma Na, Cl and osmolality, as indirect but cumulative indices of salt gland function, were uniformly elevated in all SW groups including those receiving Fn. In a second experiment, salt gland Na,K-ATPase activity was reduced after in vitro incubation with DDE (40 and 400 ?M; positive control), but was unaffected by Fn and its oxygen analog (0.04-400 ?M). The present findings suggest that environmentally realistic concentrations of organophosphorus insecticides do not affect osmoregulatory function in adult ducks.