Earlier results on molecularly coded progenitor domains in the chicken pretectum revealed an anteroposterior subdivision of the pretectum in precommissural (PcP), juxtacommissural (JcP), and commissural (CoP) histogenetic areas, each specified differentially (Ferran et al.  J Comp Neurol 505:379–403). Here we examined the nuclei derived from these areas with regard to characteristic gene expression patterns and gradual histogenesis (eventually, migration patterns). We sought a genoarchitectonic schema of the avian pretectum within the prosomeric model of the vertebrate forebrain (Puelles and Rubenstein  Trends Neurosci 26:469–476; Puelles et al.  San Diego: Academic Press). Transcription-factor gene markers were used to selectively map derivatives of the three pretectal histogenetic domains: Pax7 and Pax6 (CoP); FoxP1 and Six3 (JcP); and FoxP2, Ebf1, and Bhlhb4 (PcP). The combination of this genoarchitectonic information with additional data on Lim1, Tal2, and Nbea mRNA expression and other chemoarchitectonic results allowed unambiguous characterization of some 30 pretectal nuclei. Apart from grouping them as derivatives of the three early anteroposterior domains, we also assigned them to postulated dorsoventral subdomains (Ferran et al. ). Several previously unknown neuronal populations were detected, thus expanding the list of pretectal structures, and we corrected some apparently confused concepts in the earlier literature. The composite gene expression map represents a substantial advance in anatomical and embryological knowledge of the avian pretectum. Many nuclear primordia can be recognized long before the mature differentiated state of the pretectum is achieved. This study provides fundamental notions for ultimate scientific study of the specification and regionalization processes building up this brain area, both in birds and other vertebrates. J. Comp. Neurol. 517:405–451, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.