In a survey of wild birds (mainly gulls), 0.9% of the bacterial isolates from faecal samples at an urban landfill site and 2.9% of bacterial isolates from faecal samples on intertidal sediments in Morecambe Bay were Vero cytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O157. Isolation procedures employing commonly used cultural methods were hindered by the selection of a large number of false positives. The only procedure which resulted in the isolation of E. coli O157 from bird faecal samples was: enrichment (18 h) in a selective tryptone soya broth followed by filtration using hydrophobic grid membranes and growth on Chromagar O157. The majority of isolates selected as potential E. coli O157 by characteristic growth on Chromagar O157 could be eliminated by subsequent growth on CT-SMAC or CR-SMAC. This second identification (characterization) stage reduced the number of potential E. coli O157 requiring further confirmation by typing methods (serotype and Vero cytotoxin) by more than 70%.