Substance P‐like immunoreactive (SP‐LI) neurons were identified within the inner nuclear layer and ganglion cell layer of the chick retina. The SP‐LI cells in the inner nuclear layer consisted of several subtypes of neurons, differing in soma size and dendritic arborization. In the ganglion cell layer a population of moderately labelled SP‐LI neurons was also present. About 6–9 m̈m in diameter and spaced 50–80 m̈m apart, they formed a regular array across the entire retina, with a density of about 400 cells/mm2 in the superior temporal retina, declining to less than 100 cells/mm2 in the peripheral retina. The total number of SP‐LI cells in the ganglion cell layer was approximately 75,000. Individual axons could be followed toward the optic nerve head. Lesions near the optic nerve head resulted in axotomy of ganglion cells within a limited portion of the retina. Two days postaxotomy there were numerous SP‐LI swellings in the proximal segments of axotomized axons. SP‐LI neurons in the axotomized zone were larger, more numerous, and showed increased staining of their processes. Fourteen days following a retinal lesion, there was depletion of all SP‐LI cells in the ganglion cell layer within the axotomized zone, but the SP‐LI neurons in the inner nuclear layer were not noticeably affected. Following a localized injection of rhodamine‐coupled latex beads into the optic tectum, a population of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the contra‐lateral retina was retrogradely labelled. Many of these cells also exhibited SP‐like immunoreactivity. Examination of the optic tectum indicated the presence of SP‐LI fibres in laminae 2–13 (nomenclature of Cajal: Histologie du Systems Nerveux. Vol. 2. Paris: Maloine, '11), with immunoreactive terminal regions present mainly in laminae 2–4, 7, and 9–13. SP‐LI cell bodies were found predominantly in laminae 10–12 and 13. Fourteen days following a retinal lesion, SP‐LI processes and terminals were depleted from laminae 2 and 3. Immunoreactive cells and processes in the remaining laminae of the optic tectum were not noticeably altered. The present report confirms the existence of SP‐LI retinal ganglion cells in the chick retina and demonstrates their contribution to lamina specific SP‐LI arborization in the optic tectum. Copyright © 1987 Alan R. Liss, Inc.