Abstract Noradrenaline release in areas within the forebrain occurs following activation of noradrenergic cells in the locus coeruleus (LoC). Release of noradrenaline by attentional/arousal/vigilance factors appears to be essential for learning and is responsible for the consolidation of memory. Noradrenaline can activate any of nine different adrenoceptor (AR) subtypes in the brain and selectivity of action may be achieved by the spatial location and relative density of the AR subtypes, by different affinities of the different subtypes and by temporal selectivity in terms of when the different ARs are activated in the memory formation process. This review examines the use of selective agonists and antagonists to determine the roles of the AR subtypes in the one-trial discriminated avoidance learning paradigm in the chick. A model is developed that integrates noradrenergic activity in basal ganglia (lobus parolfactorius (LPO)) and association cortex (intermediate medial hyperstriatum ventrale (IMHV)) leading to the consolidation of memory 30 min after training. There is evidence that β 2- and β 3-ARs are important in the association area but require input from α 2-AR stimulated activity in the basal ganglia for consolidation. On the other hand, α 1-AR activation in the IMHV is inhibitory and prevents consolidation. While there is no role for β 1-ARs in memory consolidation, they play a role in short-term memory (STM). The use of the precocial chick has clear advantages in having a temporally discrete learning task which allows for discrimination memory and whose development can be followed at discrete intervals after learning. These studies reveal clear roles for AR subtypes in the formation and consolidation of memory in the chick, which have allowed the development of a model that can now be tested in mammalian systems.