Baculoviruses were engineered to express hemagglutinin (HA) genes of recent avian influenza (AI) isolates of the H5 and H7 subtypes. The proteins were expressed as either intact (H7) or slightly truncated versions (H5). In both cases purified HA proteins from insect cell cultures retained hemagglutination activity and formed rosettes in solution, indicating proper folding. Although immunogenic in this form, these proteins were more effective when administered subcutaneously in a water-in-oil emulsion. One or two-day-old specific pathogen free (SPF) White Rock chickens, free of maternal AI antibodies, responded with variable serum HI titers, but in some cases the titers were comparable to those achieved using whole virus preparations. Vaccination of three-week-old chickens with 1.0 microg of protein per bird generated a more consistent serum antibody response with an average geometric mean titer (GMT) of 121 (H5) and 293 (H7) at 21 days postvaccination. When challenged with highly pathogenic strains of the corresponding AI subtypes, the vaccinated birds were completely protected against lethal infection and in some cases exhibited reduced or no cloacal shedding at 3 days postinfection. Vaccine protocols employing these recombinant HA proteins will not elicit an immune response against internal AI proteins and thus will not interfere with epidemiological surveys of natural influenza infections in the field.