Identifying Bird Eggs

If you need help identifying bird eggs this guide offers useful tips. 

Robin egg blue
Most of us would recognize the robin's egg anyway. Robin egg blue is so familiar that it is a Crayola™ crayon name. The robin is a gray, black and red bird that lays a blue egg. The bluebird's egg is white. A cardinal egg is brown-speckled. A goldfinch lays a pearl-white egg, so the clue is not a connection to the bird's color. The color usually gives a clue though. A killdeer lays its eggs on the gravel, so it is speckled with brown on white to camouflage it.

Where were the bird eggs found?
The type of nest, or lack thereof, the position and location of the egg can help you determine the type of bird. Many more birds than you may think build a nest on the ground, like the swallows (Lincoln's, Savannah, Grasshopper, Seaside, Henslow's, White-Throated, Bachman's, Lark, Vesper and Song sparrows). Chuck-Will's Widow, the Whippoorwill, Common Nighthawk, the Meadowlark, the Bobolink and the Killdeer lay their eggs in the leaves or gravel. Some build nests only in conifer trees, some only in oaks or in shrubs or tree hollows. The cliff swallow makes a nest in sandy cliffs. Water birds nest near waterways, rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and swamps.

How big is it?
The ostrich lays the largest egg, as long as nine inches and about six inches around, equal to about 14 chicken eggs. Geese, ducks and owls lay large eggs. The hummingbird lays eggs less than half an inch long, about the size of an English pea. Size, of course is a major clue to the identification of the species.

What shape is the egg?
The shape of the eggs of different species are usually oval, but a few common birds have a round egg. The Whippoorwill and the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo are two of the rounder ones. The shape has a purpose in being turned and fitting into the nest shape so as to keep together and conserve warmth. The size is an indication of the bird's size.

The best books I have found for identifying bird eggs and nests is a Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds' Nests and Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds' Nests. A birder could use a chart from encyclopedia or one found in Webster's dictionary as a guide.

Question of the day:
What bird lays the most eggs? Domestic fowl lay the most, some as many as 363 eggs in 365 days. In the wild though, Bobwhites may lay as many as 20, Ring-necked Pheasants and common turkeys lay up to 15. Greater Prairie Chickens lay about 17 in a clutch, as do Sharp-Tailed Grouse. But it's the poultry types still that lay the most eggs.

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