Neurons and glioblasts that arise in the ventricular zone migrate to form discrete nuclei and laminae as the central nervous system develops. By stably labeling precursor cells in the ventricular zone, pathways taken by different cells within an individual clone can be described. We have used recombinant retroviruses to label precursor cells with a heritable marker, the E. coli lacZ gene; clones of lacZ-positive cells are later mapped histochemically. Here we review results from three regions of the chicken central nervous system--the optic tectum, spinal cord, and forebrain--and compare them with previous results from mammalian cortex and other regions of the vertebrate CNS. In particular, we consider the relationship between migratory patterns and functional organization, the existence of multiple cellular sources of migratory guidance, and the issue of whether a cell's choice of migratory pathway influences its ultimate phenotype.