The development of retinal ganglion cells (RGC) was studied in the chick from stage 18 to adulthood. Our main objectives were to identify the retinal site where the first RGCs differentiate, to locate this site relative to the optically defined central retinal area, and to map the spatial arrangement of the RGC field at different stages in development. The eyes of the experimental animals were fixed and serially sectioned. The borders of RGC fields were determined from the presence of either ganglion cell perikarya or ganglion cell axons. In seven cases between stages 21 and 26, the borders of the RGC fields were confirmed electron microscopically. The serial sections together with the RGC fields were then reconstructed in three dimensions. The reconstructed retinae were projected onto a plane by using the radially equidistant polar azimuthal projection. First, RGCs appear dorsal to the apex of the optic fissure. Ganglion cell development then initially spreads out symmetrically with respect to the optic fissure. However, from stage 29 on, the nasal half of the retina expands much more than the temporal half. This asymmetrical growth entails that the optic fissure is eventually located in the temporal half of the retina in the mature animal. The RGC fields of the embryonic stages were superimposed on the retina of a visually active animal according to their real size and position. It turned out that the central retinal area was at least 2 mm away from the site where the first RGCs were generated. It is not before stage 28 that the prospective central retinal area is included into the expanding ganglion cell field. The fact that RGCs at the central retinal area are generated 2.5 days later than first RGCs near the apex of the optic fissure has important implications for the formation of the retinotectal projection.