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Identifying bird eggs & nests

Updated April 17, 2017

If you ever come across an empty nest or a bird egg on the ground, you may want to know what kind of bird the egg or nest belongs to. Identifying the bird species can help you know what type of food to set out for the birds or simply satisfy your curiosity. Identifying eggs and nests doesn't require any specific expertise, although a bird watching guidebook and a pair of binoculars will come in handy.

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  1. Narrow down the possibilities based on the birds living in your region. Some birds may not be found in all parts of the country. Consult a bird guide to learn what birds live in your region.

  2. Study the height of the nest from the ground, position of the nest and location. The website Nest Watch notes that some birds may make nests above ground, while others make their nests low to the ground or directly on it. If the nest is in a fork in the tree, that may rule out certain bird species that prefer nesting inside tree cavities. The nest may be on top of grass, in a tree or on the side of a cliff, depending on the bird.

  3. Observe the size and shape of the nest and eggs within. Some nests can be cup-shaped, while others resemble domes or are somewhat flat. Eggs come in a variety of shapes, from round to oval or more pointed at the end. The size of the eggs and nests may depend upon the size of the bird species, so smaller nests and eggs can rule out overly large birds.

  4. Identify the materials of the nest. Not all birds create nests out of sticks; some opt for grass or pine needles, like the Eastern bluebird, or moss, such as the oak titmouse.

  5. Look for feathers around the nest or eggs. A feather will be a huge help in identifying the bird species at hand.

  6. Study the markings and colours of the eggs. Bird species lay eggs with specific markings and colourings that can help with identification. Robins' eggs, for instance, are a powder blue shade. Other birds may lay brown, white or tan eggs and can have spots on the shell.

  7. Wait to see if the parents show up again at the nest to care for eggs. Use a pair of binoculars to watch the nest and eggs from a distance. Once you spot the parents, identifying the bird species may become easier.

  8. Tip

    Having a digital camera on hand to take pictures of the nest and eggs can help you identify the eggs. Taking a picture and looking the information up later can keep you from disturbing the nest too much.


    Avoid picking up or taking home the nest and eggs. Too much disturbance may lead to the parents abandoning the nest and the eggs within.

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Things You'll Need

  • Bird watching guide
  • Binoculars

About the Author

Ticara Gailliard

Ticara Gailliard is a college graduate with a degree in communications/film and video production from the University of Memphis. She has been a writer for over 15 years and has been published in local writing magazines such as "Grandmother Earth." She also edited two books for her high school.

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