Egg And Nest Identification
Thank you for visiting my Egg & Nest Identification page. Since I get so many visitors to this page I wish to ask a simple favor of you. I am part of a movement to create an additional income stream for our National Wildlife Refuge system by promoting a Wildlife Conservation Stamp as an alternative to the Duck Stamp for non-extractive users of our National Wildlife Refuges. If you enjoy wildlife (which you obviously do if you are here trying to identify a nest or bird eggs) please further this worthy cause by going to our Facebook page and clicking the “Like” button. If you are really interested in helping and want to join us on this journey, check out Our Proposal and About Us pages on the website. If you are part of an organization you may want to discuss our proposal with your organization’s leaders and have your organization listed on our “Organizations in Support” page. THANK YOU!!
IMPORTANT: IF YOU FIND EGGS BY THEMSELVES OR IN A NEST DO NOT TOUCH THEM! LEAVE THEM WHERE THEY ARE!
Many times, even if you find an egg on the ground, all by itself, with no nest around, it may be a species of bird that uses a scrape nest (just a simple scrape in the dirt) and they will return to lay more eggs until they have a full clutch before they start incubating the eggs. Please do not disturb nests or eggs that you may discover.
PLEASE READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW FOR EGG & NEST IDENTIFICATION HELP!
If you have found a nest or bird eggs you would like to have identified, please send me an email with the following information:
- The city and state where the nest was discovered
- The habitat and location of the nest (i.e. deciduous or pine forest, grassland, marsh, farm or city and nest was in a bush or tree, on the ground, in my potted plant or in the seat of the tractor)
- A description of the nest, what the nest is made of and its dimensions
- What the eggs look like, color, size, shape and how many eggs in the nest
If you can get a photo of the nest and eggs, with a coin in the photo for size comparison, it will facilitate the identification. I enjoy the stories of nest discoveries and urge you to send me an email with your questions.
If you are going to put up nestboxes and monitor them, it is important to know what species of bird is nesting in your birdhouses. I have put together a small sampling of the eggs and nests of the birds that I have nesting in my nestboxes here.
Below the nest box photos there are several photos of bird nests and eggs, some from myself and others from readers asking for identification help. PLEASE REVIEW THE PHOTOS BELOW TO SEE IF THEY MATCH THE EGGS OR NEST YOU ARE INQUIRING ABOUT. I get many inquiries and try to answer all of them in a timely fashion by contacting you directly via email. This page will be updated often with my information and photos as well as photos from readers who give me permission to post their finds. Enjoy!
Western Bluebird Nest and Ash-throated Flycatcher Nest
The Ash-throated flycatcher nest (right) is made up of grass, weeds, fur and hair. Sometimes containing some cow or horse dung.
The Western Bluebird nest (left) is a collection of fine grasses and sometimes include a feather or two, leaves and thin bark. It has a fairly shallow cup with, if your lucky, up to seven pale blue eggs.
Tree Swallow Nest and House Sparrow Nest
The house sparrow nest (right) is a jumble of course grasses and weeds with seed heads and (in this case) Emu feathers that completely fill the nestbox. The nest will form a tunnel from the entrance hole almost to the bottom of the box. The tree swallow nest (left) will look similar to the western bluebird with many more feathers. In this case the swallows had lots of goose feathers nearby.
Oak Titmouse Nest and House Finch Nest
The Oak Titmouse nest (left) is made of grasses and moss, with fine hair and/or fur and sometimes small feathers making a deep cup for the eggs. The House Finch nest (right) is made of fine hair (horse hair in this nest) woven into a perfect bowl.
Cavity Nester’s Egg Comparison
These eggs are all fairly shiny after the mother has been sitting on them for any length of time. Note the subtle differences between the Ash-throated Flycatcher’s egg and the House Sparrow’s egg. The House Sparrow egg has a cream, green or grayish background with irregular fine brown speckles whereas the Flycatcher’s eggs have an ivory or tan background with streaks or blotches of dark brown, purple or gray, heavier at the large end of the egg.
Ash-throated and Great Crested Flycatcher Nest and Eggs
The Great Crested Flycatcher is the eastern cousin to the Ash-throated Flycatcher. I just received an excellent photo of the Great Crested Flycatcher’s nest and eggs from Page, one of my readers from North Carolina, and I thought it would be nice to show the difference between the Great Crested Flycatcher’s nest (normally with the snake skins) and (more heavily streaked) eggs…
and the Ash-throated Flycatcher we have here out West.
White-breasted Nuthatch Nest and Chicks
White-breasted Nuthatches nests are floored with bark flakes and strips and lumps of earth; with a cup of finer bark shreds, grasses and rootlets, but mainly lined with fur, wool, hair and feathers. Their eggs are smooth and slightly glossy usually white, sometimes tinted creamy or pink. Speckled and spotted with light red, reddish-brown, brown, and purplish-red, and sometimes paler gray and purple. You can see a photo of them on my friend Bet’s page here. Here is a close-up of the chicks in the nest.
House Sparrows are a non-native, invasive species in North America and are not protected by law. They will take over nest boxes and chase off or kill native birds. There are several things you can do to protect your nest boxes against this invader. For extensive information on this subject, please visit my friend Bet Zimmerman’s Page.
American Kestrel Nest and Eggs
This is a photo I took while helping my friend Steve monitor some of his American Kestrel boxes. He has over 75 Kestrel boxes he monitors every year, this being only a small percentage of the nest boxes he monitors. The American Kestrel lays 4 to 5 smooth, non-glossy, cream colored eggs, about twice the size of a Western Bluebird egg, with irregular brown spots. Notice they have only a small amount of sawdust as nesting material.
Chimney Swift Nest with Chicks
This was sent to me by Larry Arnold from Atlanta Georgia. He found this nest built inside his fireplace. This is a view looking down at the nest. He said that the baby’s singing for food filled the living room! That’s the adult bird right in the middle of the photo. The nest is a shallow half-cup of short dead twigs broken off by the birds in flight and glued together and to the wall by saliva! There is no lining and the eggs are white, 20 x 13mm.
Here in the West and Southwest we have Bushtits. They build this elaborate pendulous gourd-shaped nest with a small, circular, side-facing hooded entrance near the top shown above, sent to me by Mark Prichard. The photo below was found by Chris Nelson in Chico, a community close to my location.
For more information on these cooperative breeders can be found in the post I wrote when I found a pair of Bushtits building a nest.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest and Eggs
Here is a great photo of a hummingbird nest from my friend Nina over at Nature Remains. Go check out the entire photo story at her site. The typical hummingbird nest is tiny, about the size of half an English walnut shell. They are usually built on a small forked branch about the size of a pencil. The outer part is covered with moss and plant fibers to camouflage the nest. Sometimes it is shingled with lichens like this one. The rest of the nest is made of plant down and spider webs. Not just any spider webs either. Hummingbirds use only fresh spider webs made the same day, before any bugs are trapped in the webbing. Successful nests are usually built in a site that is out of the wind so the hummer moms can more easily control the nest temperature.
This photo of an Anna’s Hummngbird nest and eggs was sent to me by Cheryl from Salome, Arizona. Her friend Terry took the photos.
Here is the female hummingbird sitting in the nest
And finally, the first chick hatched. The yellowish egg is a mystery. I think it may be an unfertilized first egg, but you can see the other white egg and the dark colored chick with its black skin and gray down on the lower right.
American Robin Nest and Eggs
This photo of an American Robin sitting on the nest was taken by my brother at his home in Lake Tahoe. Robins will often build their nests on man-made structures in urban areas if other natural sites are not available. Rain gutters and any type of ledge, like this electric meter, will suffice.
The female selects the site and builds the nest which may be placed anywhere from the ground to the tree tops. She constructs the outer wall with dead grass and twigs, then brings in mud to reinforce the edge of the nest. Finally she will line the cup with fine dead grass.
Sandra from Illinois sent me some photos of American robins nesting on the fire hose hook ups outside a fire house.
House Finch Nest and Eggs
The House Finch is one of the most common backyard birds in the United States. Their nest sites include pine, spruce, and palm trees; cactus; rock ledges; vents, ledges, or ivy on buildings (including especially parking structures); street lamps; hanging planters; and abandoned nests of other birds. This nest was found in my neighbor’s hanging planter on her back porch. Read my post here.
This photo of a House Finch nest built in a wreath on the front door was sent to me by Terri from Denver.
And from Bev in Tacoma Washington, House Finches nesting in a porch light
You can see the fecal droppings accumulate around the nest as the chicks grow
This is a House Finch nest that has been parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. The cowbird eggs are the larger, brown speckled eggs.
This is another great shot from Michael Jacobson in South Carolina, of a House Finch nest with five House Finch eggs and one Brown-headed Cowbird egg. You can read about the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird here.
Dark-eyed Junco Nest and Eggs
Dark-eyed Juncos nests are rarely higher than 8 feet up. They nest in open woodland and forest edge. The nest is on the ground among tree roots or partly hidden by brushwood, stump or rock. They will also nest in low shrubs or on conifer branches. This photo was sent to me by Shawn and Kelly Benshoof.
Killdeer Nest and Eggs
This is a typical Killdeer nest and eggs. The nest begins as a simple scrape in the ground but as laying and incubation progress, rocks, bits of shell, weed stems, or other material are added. Killdeer commonly nest on graveled road shoulders and in parking lots as well as on flat graveled rooftops. See my post here.
Another bird that nests in a scape or shallow hollow is the American Oystercatcher. Richard sent me this photo of their eggs from Tampa Florida. The American Oystercatcher breeds in open sites on coastal beaches, among rocks on islands, in dunes or on shingle beds; occasionally on saltmarsh. Their nest is a shallow hollow, unlined or with pieces of dead plants, small stones, broken shells, or other debris. Often on a small mount serving as a lookout. This clutch is probably not complete as they almost always lay three eggs.
Carolina Wren Nest and Eggs
Here are some photos sent to me from Katherine in Atlanta, Georgia, of a Carolina Wren nest and eggs she found in her daughter’s playset refrigerator.
Isn’t that amazing nest construction? Look how well placed those leaves are around the perimeter.
Here is a better photo of the Carolina Wren eggs
We hope for a successful outcome with the possibility of five new Carolina Wrens for the state of Georgia!
Here is another Carolina Wren nest and eggs in a hanging basket from Judy in Texas. Notice the typical domed style used by this species when the nest is not in a confined space like a nest box or the “refrigerator” above
Here is a shot of the eggs through the domed entrance
And a close up of the eggs where you can see what looks like a snake skin
More Carolina Wrens from Kirsten in Texas. This nest was discovered in a folded up lawn chair. Thanks for the great photos Kirsten!
Check out this Carolina Wren nest found by Laura in North Carolina. It was in a sweatshirt hanging on the clothesline.
And yet another Carolina Wren nest from Fannie in Virginia. She found this nest in a feed bucket by her rabbit hutch.
And a close-up of the egg
Carolina Wren nests are typically 6 feet or less off the ground. They are often bulky and constructed loosely of bark strips, dried grasses, dead leaves, oak catkins, sticks, pine needles, mosses, hair, feathers, light straw, wool clumps, shed snake skin, paper, plastic, and string.
Northern Cardinal Nest, Eggs and Nestlings
These photos of the Northern Cardinal nest, eggs and nestlings were sent to me by one of my readers, Cindy Griffin. You can visit her Flickr page here.
The nest not attached to the substrate; it is wedged into position. The bowl-shaped structure is composed of 4 layers: a rough outer material, leafy mat, grapevine bark, and grassy lining. It may contain weed stems, pliable twigs, strips of bark, grasses, vines, rootlets, leaves, and pine needles. Paper and plastic are common in the outer cup as seen in this nest.
Here you can see the pine straw making up the inner cup
And two healthy newborn nestlings!
Carmen sent me photos of this Northern Cardinal nest in Texas which has been parasitized by a Bronzed Cowbird. The Bronzed Cowbird egg is the light blue, unmarked egg in the nest.
These are the chicks shortly after hatching, hard to tell one species from the other
As the chicks get older, you can begin to see the difference
The Northern Cardinals have the brown plumage (in the foreground) and the Bronzed Cowbird has the darker feathering coming in and has its eyes open.
Northern Mockingbird Nest and Eggs
Daryl’s tractor quit on him in the field last November and when the weather got good enough for him to check it out, he found this Northern Mockingbird nest had been built in the fan shroud.
This Northern Mockingbird nest was discovered by Kim in Orlando Florida, in the crotch of a pear tree.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Nest and Eggs
This beautiful Flycatcher breeds regularly from southeastern Colorado, southeastern New Mexico, south Nebraska, southwestern Missouri, western Arkansas, and western Louisiana south through southern Texas. This is a photo of the eggs and nest from Michael in Texas.
And more great photos of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from Denise in Oklahoma City
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Eggs
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher chicks in Nest
Eastern Kingbird Nest and Eggs
These photos from Jodie in New York shows the diversity of nests built by Eastern Kingbirds. This one built in a roll of rope on top of a slide.
Hooded Oriole Nest
This is a Hooded Oriole Nest attached to the underside of a giant Bird of Paradise leaf, submitted by Chris in Carlsbad California.
This is a photo sent in by Wendy from Averill Park New York of an Orchard Oriole nest
Bullock’s Oriole Nest
Bullock’s Oriole nests are suspended in a twig fork or often on an ascending branch. They are a pensile pouch of long plant fibers, flax, juniper or willow bark woven into a deep cup, lined with hair, plant down, wool, fine grasses, and moss. This photo sent to me by Susan from Denver, Colorado.
This is one I found in Redding, California with a chick in it!
Red-eyed Vireo Nest
Dalila submitted these great photos of a Red-eyed Vireo nest from southern Ontario, Canada. You can see the original photos on her blog here.
American Redstart Nest with Eggs
American Redstart nests are usually surrounded by foliage within well-vegetated sites, usually against the main trunk of a live tree or in leafy woody shrubs, essentially always supported by at least 3 more-or-less vertical stems for attachment of nest material. The nest is a firm compact cup of grasses, bark fibers and strips, small rootlets and vine tendrils; bound with spider’s webs and ornamented externally with lichen flakes, birch bark, seed heads and plant down; lined with fine grasses, plant and bark fibers, and often hair. These photos were sent to me by a reader from Massachusetts.
The large bluish egg with brown specs belongs to the Brown-headed Cowbird
California Quail Eggs and Nest
This photo was sent to me by my friend Amber Galusha. They are California Quail eggs found right next to her driveway. You can see the full story on her blog.
Barn Swallow Nest and Eggs
The Barn Swallow nest is an open shallow cup of mud pellets mixed with vegetable fibers and plant fragments, usually stuck against a vertical surface, often found on upper ledges of rafters in buildings. They are sparsley lined with feathers. These photos were sent to me by Sonja.
Claire sent me some more great photos of a Barn Swallow nest with close up shots of the eggs.
Black Phoebe Building a Nest
The Black Phoebe cements its nest to the vertical surface of a wall with mud. They are usually three to ten feet off the ground and the top of the nest is normally between 1 to 2 3/4 inches from the ceiling of the structure being used. You will notice mud on the walls of the building in these photos. The female flutters near or clings to the wall and places or flings mud pellets onto the vertical surface, forming a horizontal line or shallow upward arc. She builds the base of the nest out from the wall into a platform, then builds the nest cup up from the platform and lines the nest. Thanks go to Michelle from California for these photos.
Cliff Swallow Nests
Cliff Swallows breed in places where rock outcrops, cliff faces or buildings provide sites. The nest is a rounded mud structure fixed to a vertical surface protected by an overhang. They usually nest in large colonies.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Nest with Eggs
The Northern Rough-winged Swallow usually nest in a burrow dug in a steep-faced earth, sand or gravel bank. Burrows are of variable length and old Kingfisher burrows are also used. They will also use crevices and holes in buildings and man-made structures, drainpipes and even dryer vents like this nest sent to me by Kelly Bannister. Their nest is an accumulation of grasses, weeds and loose plant material with a cup lined with fine grasses and rootlets.
Violet-green Swallow Nest and Eggs
The Violet-green Swallows nest in a crevice or hole in a cliff surface or rock outcrop, in a natural cavity in a tree or in a man-made nest box. Their nest is an accumulation of dry grasses with a cup lined with feathers and sometimes hair or fine fibers.
Violet-green Swallow Eggs in Nest
Black-billed Magpie Nest
These photos of a Black-billed Magpie nest were taken by Laura Young near Banner Wyoming. These huge stick dome nests are built around a mud bowl and lined with grass, rootlets and horse hair.
You can see the mud used to anchor the platform in this photo
Brown Thrasher Nest, Eggs and Chicks
This is a Brown Thrasher sitting in her nest from Mike Whalen
Brown Thrashers nest very low in a shrub or bush, near the ground , or on the ground under a bush, shrub or small tree. Rarely more than 7 feet up, usually under 3 feet. The nest is a cup with a loose outer layer of twigs, then dead leaves, bark, small twigs, and grass stems, lined with rootlets or fine grasses.
The chicks have dark pinkish-flesh colored skin. Their down is dark gray on their head, back, wings and thighs. Their mouth is creamy yellow, orange towards the throat and their gape flanges are white.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Nest and Eggs
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher usually nest in a tree or shrub, saddling a branch or in a fork. This one sent to me by Dan From Missouri was nesting on a grape vine in his vineyard. Their nests are a deep, rounded cup, neat and compact, narrowing slightly at the rim. Made of plant down, bark and plant fibers, fine grasses, catkins, feathers, and hair; bound together and to the support by spider’s webs; the outside covered with lichen flakes; and lined with plant down and feathers. They are usually built saddling a limb or fork. Saddled nests are often built against a twig or side branch, also around twig or knot for support; often screened above by foliage with high leaf density immediately surrounding the nest.
They usually lay 4 to 5 very pale to pale blue eggs, speckled, spotted or blotched with chestnut-red, purplish-red, or reddish-brown and paler purple.
American Coot Nest and Eggs
American Coot nests are built in stands of emergent vegetation along margins of ponds, lakes, larger pools, and particularly prairie potholes. Vegetated margins of swamps with some open water, canals, sewage ponds, and slower-moving rivers are also use. The nest is a bulky cup of dead leaves and stems of waterside plants, often well raised. The outside diameter of the nest is 14 to 20 inches and the inside about 7 inches. These photos were sent to me by Mark Dakin form Oregon.
Common Nighthawk Nest and Egg
The Common Nighthawk breeds in open areas, forest clearings, cultivation, barren rock, gravel or beaches. They nest on the bare ground and frequently on the flat graveled roofs of buildings. This bird is nesting in the parking lot of Roger McCollum’s business in Alabama! He has placed cones around the female who is sitting on the nest in this photo he sent me.
Here’s a nice close up of her
They usually lay two eggs but so far Roger has seen only this one.
Common Nighthawks rely on their camouflaged plumage to evade predation but if a predator gets too close they will react and may actually flush from their nest.
Roger has posted his Common Nighthawk story on his Facebook page.
For an in depth look at bird eggs there is a great resource at The Royal Albert Museum .