Thyroid hormones show fluctuating levels during the post-hatching development of birds. In this paper we report the results of the first mechanical tests to quantify the effect of hypothyroidism, during post-natal development, on the skeletal properties of a precocial bird, the barnacle goose, as determined by microhardness testing. The effect of hypothyroidism is tissue-specific; bone from the femora of birds is not significantly affected by induced hypothyroidism, however, there is a strong positive relationship between the levels of circulating thyroid hormones and the mechanical properties of bone from humeri. In the barnacle goose the development of the wing skeleton and musculature depends on an increase in circulating thyroid hormones and our analysis shows that, in its absence, the mechanical competence of the bone mineral itself is reduced in addition to the decreased bone length and muscle development previously reported in the literature. (C) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.