Concentration-dependent effects of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (HAHs) on cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) induction in primary hepatocyte cultures prepared from embryos of chickens (four breeds), pheasants, turkeys, ducks (three breeds), and herring gulls were determined. CYP1A activity was estimated by measuring ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) activity and the concentration of immunodetectable CYP1A was estimated using mouse monoclonal antibody 1-12-3 that was prepared against scup (Stenotomus chrysops) CYP1A1. The HAHs studies were 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran (TCDF), 3,3',4,4'-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 77, IUPAC nomenclature), 3,4,4',5-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 81), 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 126), 3,3',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB 169), 2,3,3',4,4'-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 105), and 2,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB 118). Two general types of comparisons were made: (1) relative potencies of compounds within a species (expressed relative to TCDD as induction equivalency factors, IEFs) and (2) relative sensitivity of each species to EROD induction by each compound. Three methods for estimating potency were compared. These were: (1) the concentration of inducer that produced a half-maximal (EC50) EROD response, (2) the concentration producing a response equivalent to 10% of the maximal response produced by TCDD (ECTCDD 10%), and (3) a slope ratio method. For each method, the rank order in potency was TCDD > or = TCDF > PCB 126 > PCB 81 > PCB 77 > PCB 169 in chicken, pheasant, and turkey hepatocytes. The rank order was similar in duck and herring gull hepatocytes with the following exceptions: TCDF was approximately 2- to 4-fold more potent than TCDD in duck hepatocytes; PCB 169 induced EROD in gulls, but PCB 77 had no measurable effect in this species. PCB 118 was a relatively weak EROD inducer in most species/breeds, but it did not induce EROD in Pekin ducks or gulls. PCB 105 was a weak inducer in White Leghorn chicken and turkey hepatocytes, but it did not induce EROD in other species. The EC50, ECTCDD10% and slope ratio methods for estimating potencies generally gave similar IEFs for compounds that produced a maximal response that was at least 60% of the maximal response produced by TCDD. For compounds that caused a response that was 50% or lower than that produced by TCDD, EC50-based IEFs were greater (10- to 100-fold) than ECTCDD10%-based IEFs or slope-ratio-based IEFs. Among species, the rank order in sensitivity to EROD induction was chicken > pheasant > turkey > or = duck > or = herring gull. The relative sensitivity of avian hepatocyte cultures to EROD induction by PCB 77 was similar to the relative sensitivity of these species (reported elsewhere) to lethality after in ovo injection of PCB 77. Chicken hepatocyte cultures were 5-10 times more sensitive to EROD induction by TCDD than were pheasant hepatocyte cultures, which is identical to the difference in sensitivity of these species to the lethal effect of TCDD after in ovo injection. Measuring the sensitivity of hepatocyte cultures to EROD induction might be useful for estimating the sensitivity of avian species (including rare or endangered species, where it is impossible to conduct in vivo studies) to the embryotoxic effects of TCDD, non-ortho substituted PCBs, and other aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonists.