How to identify birds’ eggs

Here's your guide to identifying the most common British birds' eggs.

Starling egg illustration © Mike Langman

All illustrations by Mike Langman

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1

Starling eggs Sturnus vulgaris (above)

30 x 21mm. Starling eggs are smooth and fairly glossy. They’re pale blue eggs with no markings. Sometimes found whole.

Song thrush egg illustration © Mike Langman

2

Song thrush eggs Turdus philomelos

31 x 22mm. Song thrush eggs are smooth and glossy. They’re very pale blue eggs with a few large dark speckles, mostly at the wider end.

Blackbird egg illustration © Mike Langman

3

Blackbird eggs Turdus merula

29 x 22mm. Blackbird eggs are smooth and glossy. They’re green-blue or blue eggs with heavy red-brown freckles that can make them seem brown overall.

Robin egg illustration © Mike Langman

4

Robin eggs Erithacus rubecula

20 x 15.5mm. Robin eggs are smooth but with a matte finish. They’re white eggs with variable fine brown freckles; the whole egg may seem buff.

Dunnock egg illustration © Mike Langman

5

Dunnock eggs Prunella modularis

20 x 15mm. Dunnock eggs are smooth and glossy. They’re bright blue eggs that are unmarked; smaller than superficially similar starling eggs.

House martin egg illustration © Mike Langman

6

House martin eggs Delichon urbica

19.5 x 13.5mm. House martin eggs are smooth and slightly glossy. They’re plain white eggs. Sometimes found under eaves near predated nests.

Pheasant egg illustration © Mike Langman

7

Pheasant eggs Phasianus colchicus

46 x 36mm. Pheasant eggs are the size of a small hen’s egg. They’re usually olive-brown eggs, but can be brownish or have blueish tones.

Mallard egg illustration © Mike Langman

8

Mallard eggs Anas platyrhynchos

57 x 41mm. Mallard eggs are smooth with a matte or ‘eggshell’, rather than a glossy, feel. They’re typically pale blue-green.

Canada goose egg illustration © Mike Langman

9

Canada goose eggs Branta canadensis

86 x 58mm. Canada goose eggs are one of the largest eggs you’re likely to encounter. They’re white or cream, not glossy, and have no markings.

Great tit egg illustration © Mike Langman

10

Great tit eggs Parus major

17.5 x 13.5mm. Great tit eggs are slightly glossy. They’re white eggs, with variable amounts of reddish or purplish speckling.

House sparrow egg illustration © Mike Langman

11

House sparrow eggs Passer domesticus

22.5 x 15.5mm. House sparrow eggs are slightly glossy. They’re white eggs with variable, often heavy, speckling in browns and blue-greys.

Herring gull egg illustration © Mike Langman

12

Herring gull eggs Larus argentatus

70 x 48mm. Herring gull eggs aren’t glossy; their surface is minutely sculptured. Brownish or blue-green with variable flecking.

Is it legal to take British birds’ eggs?

Laws will vary between different countries, but in the UK, taking eggs is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – and rightly so. The only exceptions are for a few ‘pest’ species.

Taking wild birds’ eggs is a serious offence and the consequences can be severe. In October 2018, one man was found in possession of more than 5000 illegally taken eggs – don’t be that guy!

Part of Lingham's collection © RSPB

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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And once you’ve found an egg, you can always come back here if you need a hand with the identification.