The avian embryo provides a multifaceted model to study developmental mechanisms because of its accessibility to microsurgery, fluorescence cell labeling, in vivo imaging, and molecular manipulation. Early two-dimensional planar growth of the avian embryo mimics human development and provides unique access to complex cell migration patterns using light microscopy. Later developmental events continue to permit access to both light and other imaging modalities, making the avian embryo an excellent model for developmental imaging. For example, significant insights into cell and tissue behaviors within the primitive streak, craniofacial region, and cardiovascular and peripheral nervous systems have come from avian embryo studies. In this review, we provide an update to recent advances in embryo and tissue slice culture and imaging, fluorescence cell labeling, and gene profiling. We focus on how technical advances in the chick and quail provide a clearer understanding of how embryonic cell dynamics are beautifully choreographed in space and time to sculpt cells into functioning structures. We summarize how these technical advances help us to better understand basic developmental mechanisms that may lead to clinical research into human birth defects and tissue repair. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 99:121–133, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.