Whole-body energy homeostasis and food intake control are essential for an economically sound selection for growth in poultry. The cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate and link food intake, energy expenditure and energy balance are still poorly understood in poultry. Mitochondrial uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1) is known to uncouple respiration from ATP synthesis by short circuiting the inward proton flow, resulting in beat production. Its role seems quite well established in adaptive thermogenesis and energy metabolism. However, uncertainty still surrounds the physiological function of the recently discovered UCP-1 homologues, UCP-2 and -3. Most of the functional characterization of these UCPs, to date, has been conducted in mammals. Recently, an avian UCP homologue, which was identified in chicken, hummingbird and king penguin, appears to play a key role in adaptative thermogenesis. Here, we review recent reports describing avian UCP (av-UCP) and discuss progress concerning the molecular mechanisms and potential role of the av-UCP in thermogenesis regulation in avian species. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.