Over the last decades the inhibition of plasma cholinesterase (ChE) activity has been widely used as a biomarker to diagnose organophosphate and carbamate exposure. Plasma ChE activity is a useful and non-invasive method to monitor bird exposure to anticholinesterase compounds; nonetheless several studies had shown that the ChE form(s) present in avian plasma may vary greatly among species. In order to support further biomonitoring studies and provide reference data for wildlife risk-assessment, plasma cholinesterase of the northern gannet (Morus bassanus), the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) and the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) were characterized using three substrates (acetylthiocholine iodide, propionylthiocholine iodide, and S-butyrylthiocholine iodide) and three ChE inhibitors (eserine sulphate, BW284C51, and iso-OMPA). Additionally, the range of ChE activity that may be considered as basal levels for non-exposed individuals was determined. The results suggest that in the plasma of the three species studied the main cholinesterase form present is butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). Plasma BChE activity in non-exposed individuals was 0.48±0.11 SD U/ml, 0.39±0.12 SD U/ml, 0.15±0.04 SD U/ml in the northern gannet, white stork and grey heron, respectively. These results are crucial for the further use of plasma BChE activity in these bird species as a contamination bioindicator of anti-cholinesterase agents in both wetland and marine environments. Our findings also underscore the importance of plasma ChE characterization before its use as a biomarker in biomonitoring studies with birds.