Several recorded motions for seven bridge systems in California during recent earthquakes were analysed using parametric and non-parametric system identification (SI) methods. The bridges were selected considering the availability of an adequate array of accelerometers and accounting for different structural systems, materials, geometry and soil types. The results of the application of SI methods included identification of modal frequencies and damping ratios. Excellent fits of the recorded motion in the time domain were obtained using parametric methods. The multi-input/single-output SI method was a suitable approach considering the instrumentation layout for these bridges. Use of the constructed linear filters for prediction purposes was also demonstrated for three bridge systems. Reasonable prediction results were obtained considering the various limitations of the procedure. Finally, the study was concluded by identifying the change of the modal frequencies and damping of a particular bridge system in time using recursive filters. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.