During development, the vertebrate inner ear arises from the otic placode, a thickened portion of the ectoderm next to the hindbrain. Here, the first detailed fate maps of this region in the chick embryo are presented. At head process stages, placode precursors are scattered throughout a large region of the embryonic ectoderm, where they intermingle with future neural, neural crest, epidermal, and other placode cells. Within the next few hours, dramatic cell movements shift the future otic placode cells toward the midline and ultimately result in convergence to their final position next to rhombomeres 5-6. Individual cells and small cell groups undergo constant cell rearrangements and appear to sort out from nonotic cells. While the major portion of the otic placode is derived from the nonneural ectoderm, the neural folds also contribute cells to the placode at least until the four-somite stage. Comparison of these fate maps with gene expression patterns at equivalent stages reveals molecular heterogeneity of otic precursor cells in terms of their expression of dlx5, msx1, Six4, and ERNI. Although Pax2 expression coincides with the region where otic precursors are found from stage 8, not all Pax2-positive cells will ultimately contribute to the otic placode.