Neural crest cells (NCC) have the particularity to invade the environment where they differentiate after separation from the neuroepithelium. This process, called delamination, is strikingly different between cranial and trunk NCCs. If signalings controlling slow trunk delamination start being deciphered, mechanisms leading to massive and rapid cranial outflow are poorly documented. Here, we show that the chick cranial NCCs delamination is the result of two events: a substantial cell mobilization and an epithelium to mesenchyme transition (EMT). We demonstrate that ets-1, a transcription factor specifically expressed in cranial NCCs, is responsible for the former event by recruiting massively cranial premigratory NCCs independently of the S-phase of the cell cycle and by leading the gathered cells to straddle the basal lamina. However, it does not promote the EMT process alone but can cooperate with snail-2 (previously called slug) to this event. Altogether, these data lead us to propose that ets-1 plays a pivotal role in conferring specific cephalic characteristics on NCC delamination.