Primitive streak formation in the chick embryo involves large-scale highly coordinated flows of more than 100,000 cells in the epiblast. These large-scale tissue flows and deformations can be correlated with specific anisotropic cell behaviours in the forming mesendoderm through a combination of light-sheet microscopy and computational analysis. Relevant behaviours include apical contraction, elongation along the apical-basal axis followed by ingression, and asynchronous directional cell intercalation of small groups of mesendoderm cells. Cell intercalation is associated with sequential, directional contraction of apical junctions, the onset, localization and direction of which correlate strongly with the appearance of active myosin II cables in aligned apical junctions in neighbouring cells. Use of class specific myosin inhibitors and gene-specific knockdown shows that apical contraction and intercalation are myosin II dependent and also reveal critical roles for myosin I and myosin V family members in the assembly of junctional myosin II cables.