How to identify birds’ eggs

Here are 12 eggs you’re most likely to find in your garden, local park or on a country walk. 

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Starling egg
All illustrations by Mike Langman

 

1. Starling Sturnus vulgaris (above)

30 x 21mm. Smooth and fairly glossy. Pale blue with no markings. Sometimes found whole.

 

 

2. Song thrush Turdus philomelos

31 x 22mm. Smooth and glossy. Very pale blue with a few large dark speckles, mostly at the wider end. 

 

 

3. Blackbird Turdus merula

29 x 22mm. Smooth and glossy. Green-blue or blue; heavy red-brown freckles – can seem brown overall.

 

 

4. Robin Erithacus rubecula

20 x 15.5mm. Smooth but has a matt finish. White with variable fine brown freckles; whole egg may seem buff.

 

 

5. Dunnock Prunella modularis

20 x 15mm. Smooth and glossy. Bright blue and unmarked; smaller than superficially similar starling egg.

 

 

6. House martin Delichon urbica

19.5 x 13.5mm. Smooth and slightly glossy. Plain white. Sometimes found under eaves near predated nests.

 

 

7. Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

46 x 36mm; the size of a small hen’s egg. Usually olive-brown, but can be brownish or have blueish tones.

 

 

8. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

57 x 41mm. Smooth with a matt or ‘eggshell’, rather than a glossy, feel. Typically pale blue-green.

 

 

9. Canada goose Branta canadensis

86 x 58mm; one of the largest eggs you’re likely to encounter. Not glossy. White or cream, with no markings.

 

 

10. Great tit Parus major

17.5 x 13.5mm. Slightly glossy. White with variable amounts of reddish or purplish speckling.

 

 

11. House sparrow Passer domesticus

22.5 x 15.5mm. Slightly glossy. White with variable, often heavy, speckling in browns and blue-greys.

 

 

12. Herring gull Larus argentatus

70 x 48mm. Not glossy; surface is minutely sculptured. Brownish or blue-green with variable flecking.

 

BIRD EGGS AND THE LAW

Taking eggs is (except for some ‘pest’ species) illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – and rightly so. 

However, you don’t need to break the law to be an egg-detective at this time of year – the signs are all around us. What are those fragments of speckled eggs on the garden path? Who laid that bright blue egg dumped on the lawn? Remember, eggshells don’t just fall out of a nest. Predators such as foxes or magpies may carry them away, as do parent birds, often to help conceal the location of vulnerable babies.

 

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