Field studies of pesticide effects on birds often utilize indicator species with the purpose 16 of extrapolating to other avian taxa. Little guidance exists for choosing indicator species to 17 monitor the presence and/or effects of contaminants that are labile in the environment or body, 18 but are acutely toxic, such as anticholinesterase (anti-ChE) insecticides. Use of an indicator 19 species that does not represent maximum exposure and/or effects could lead to inaccurate risk 20 estimates. Our objective was to test the relevance of a priori selection of indicator species for a 21 study on pesticide exposure to birds inhabiting fruit orchards. We used total plasma 22 cholinesterase (ChE) activity and ChE reactivation to describe the variability in anti-ChE exposure among avian species in two conventionally managed fruit orchards. Of seven 24 species included in statistical analyses, the less common species, chipping sparrow (Spizella 25 passerina), showed the greatest percentage of exposed individuals and the greatest ChE 26 depression, whereas the two most common species, American robins (Turdus migratorius) and 27 grey catbirds (Dumatella carolinensis), did not show significant exposure. Due to their lower 28 abundance, chipping sparrows would have been an unlikely choice for study. Our results show 29 that selection of indicator species using traditionally accepted criteria such as abundance and 30 ease of collection may not identify species that are at greatest risk. Our efforts also demonstrate 31 the usefulness of conducting multiple-species pilot studies prior to initiating detailed studies on 32 pesticide effects. A study such as ours can help focus research and resources on study species 33 that are most appropriate.