The A/Chick/Penn/83 (H5N2) influenza virus that appeared in chickens in Pennsylvania in April 1983 and subsequently became virulent in October 1983, was examined for plaque-forming ability and cleavability of the hemagglutinin (HA) molecule. The avirulent virus produced plaques and cleaved the HA only in the presence of trypsin. In contrast, the virulent virus produced plaques and cleaved the HA precursor into HA1 and HA2 in the presence or absence of trypsin. The apparent molecular weight of the HA1 from the avirulent virus was higher than that from the virulent virus, but when the viruses were grown in the presence of tunicamycin, the molecular weights of HA were indistinguishable. Two of nine monoclonal antibodies to the HA of the avirulent virus indicate that there is at least one epitope on the HA that is different between the virulent and avirulent viruses. The amino acid sequences of the HAs from the two viruses were compared by sequencing their respective HA gene. The nucleotide sequence coding for the processed HA polypeptide contained 1641 nucleotides specifying a protein of 547 amino acids. The amino acid sequences of the virulent and avirulent viruses were indistinguishable through the connecting peptide region, indicating that the difference in cleavability of the H5 HA is not directly attributed to the amino acid sequence of the connecting peptide. Four of seven nucleotide changes resulted in amino acid changes at residues 13, 69, and 123 of HA1 and at residue 501 of the HA2 polypeptide. Since there were no deletions or insertions in the amino acid sequence of the virulent or avirulent viruses, the possibility exists that the difference in molecular weight is due to loss of a carbohydrate side chain in the virulent strain. The amino acid change in the virulent strain at residue 13 is the only mutation that could affect a glycosylation site and this is in the vicinity of the connecting peptide. It is postulated that the loss of this carbohydrate may permit access of an enzyme that recognizes the basic amino acid sequences and results in cleavage activation of the HA in the virulent virus.