Cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides are applied throughout Australia to control agricultural pests. Blood plasma cholinesterase (ChE) activity is a sensitive indicator of exposure to organophosphorus insecticides in vertebrates. To aid biomonitoring and provide reference data for wildlife pesticide-risk assessment, plasma acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) activities were characterised in nine species of native bird: King Quails (Excalfactoria chinensis), Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), White-plumed Honeyeaters (Lichenostomas penicillatus), Yellow-throated Miners (Manorina flavigula), Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys), Australian Reed-Warblers (Acrocephalus australis), Brown Songlarks (Cincloramphus cruralis), Double-barred Finches (Taeniopygia bichenovii) and Australasian Pipits (Anthus novaeseelandiae). Plasma ChE activities in all species were within the range of most other avian species and all but one contained AChE and BChE; no AChE was present in King Quail, which has not previously been reported for any species. The lowest detectable plasma AChE activity was 0.10 mu mol min(-1) mL(-1) in Budgerigars and the highest was 0.86 mu mol min(-1) mL(-1) in Australian Reed-Warblers. BChE in the plasma ranged from 0.37 mu mol min(-1) mL(-1) in Double-barred Finches to 0.90 mu mol min(-1) mL(-1) in White-plumed Honeyeaters and Australian Reed-Warblers. The lowest proportion of AChE was found in Budgerigars (12.8%) and highest in Willie Wagtails (67.8%). No differences were detected in ChE activity at any time of day in Budgerigars and Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata), although there was a significant difference in all ChE activity between seasons in Zebra Finches.