Bird eggs tend to be various shades of brown, white, gray or blue. It can be exciting to come across a nest with blue eggs. Blue isn’t a color often found in nature, and blue eggs can really stand out amongst the brown and green of their surroundings. In this article we look look at 20 North American birds with blue eggs and give descriptions of each one. If you’ve ever wondered why eggs would be blue instead of a more camouflaged color, we’ll discuss some leading theories at the end of the article.
20 Species of Birds With Blue Eggs
These North American species are known to lay blue eggs. Some are bright, vibrant blue while others are have just a pale blue tint. Some are unmarked, while others have spots and speckles. Below we go more in-depth about each species and what their eggs look like.
- American Robin
- Eastern Bluebird
- Blue Jay
- Gray Catbird
- Western Bluebird
- European Starling
- Wood Thrush
- House Finch
- Blue Grosbeak
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Painted Bunting
- Northern Mockingbird
- Green Heron
- Great Blue Heron
- Great Egret
- Varied Thrush
- Mountain Bluebird
- Hermit Thrush
- Cedar Waxwing
1. American Robin
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Nothing heralds springtime like the melodious robin. Robins are found across most of the U.S. and often build nests in backyards, making them one of the most common bird nests people see. Nests are built in all sorts of places, including trees, thickets, and man-made ledges like windowsills, eaves, gutters and lighting fixtures. Robins reinforce their nests with mud, then line them with fine grasses.
Robin’s eggs have become so iconic, people often use the phrase “Robin’s egg blue” when describing something with a vibrant teal or greenish-blue coloration. Their eggs are solid blue with no markings. American Robins usually lay between 3-5 eggs at a time, incubate them for two weeks, then the nestlings leave about 13 day after hatching.
2. Eastern Bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
Not only do bluebirds sport beautiful blue feathers, but their eggs are blue as well! Eastern Bluebirds are found across the eastern United States and are cavity nesters. In the wild they will nest in old woodpecker holes, but they also take readily to man-made nest boxes. Introduced species like the House Sparrow and European Starling have caused bluebird populations to decrease, because they aggressively compete with bluebirds for nesting cavities. Conservation efforts putting up houses specifically for bluebirds have helped their populations rebound.
Eastern bluebird eggs are pale blue or occasionally white. They lay 2-7 eggs per clutch and incubate them for 11-19 days. Nestlings will leave about three weeks after hatching. Females do the nest building, and may reuse a nest more than once.
3. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
The squawking call of the Blue Jay is impossible to miss. They can be spotted throughout the eastern and central United States west until the Rockies. The large Blue Jay is a common visitor to backyard and bird feeders. Nests are built about 10-25 feet above the ground in trees. Males and females work together gathering materials and building their cup-shaped nest.
Blue jay eggs are a light bluish or brownish color, with pale brown spots. Their clutch contains 2-7 eggs, and incubation is 17-18 days.
4. Gray Catbird
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
Most people see Gray Catbirds during the spring and summer when they can be found across much of the U.S. during the nesting season. Their coloring may be a drab gray but their songs and calls are anything but plain. Catbirds like to build nests on branches hidden inside dense foliage of shrubs, trees and vines. Females do most of the nest building over a 5 day period.
Their eggs are a turquoise blue-green, sometimes unmarked and sometimes with reddish-brown spots. 1-6 eggs are laid and incubated for 12-15 days. After hatching the babies grow quickly, leaving the nest after only 10-11 days.
5. Western Bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia mexicana
Like their eastern cousins, the Western Bluebird also has blue eggs. They look quite similar to Eastern Bluebirds, but males have a blue throat instead of orange, and more orange on their back. Nests are build in previous woodpecker holes, other tree cavities and birdhouses.
Females will build the nest using grasses, pine needles, plant fibers, rootlets and soft materials like feathers or animal fur. Eggs are pale blue and unmarked, but are sometimes white. 2-8 eggs are laid and incubated for 12-17 days. Babies leave the nest about 18-25 days after hatching.
6. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
European Starlings build their nests in cavities, which include woodpecker holes, nest boxes or even building structures (notably streetlights and traffic lights). They often use materials such as grass, twigs, feathers, and leaves to construct their nests, which can be quite large and bulky. Females may remove what they consider excess materials the male has brought in. They are also known to add fresh, green plant material throughout the nesting period.
European Starling eggs can be light blue or a greenish white, a little over 1 inch long. Females typically lay 3-6 eggs per clutch, and may lay up to two clutches per breeding season. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 11-13 days.
Both parents take turns feeding the chicks, which fledge the nest after about 21-23 days. After fledging, the young starlings may continue to be fed by their parents for a few more weeks, until they are fully independent.
7. Wood Thrush
Scientific name: Hylocichla mustelina
Wood Thrushes migrate back into the eastern half of the U.S. to build their nests in the spring. Look for them in mature forests with both tall trees and understory. Males may attempt to suggest a suitable nest site, but ultimately the female gets to choose and will build the cup-shaped nest. The interior of the nest is secured with mud and then lined with rootlets.
Wood Thrush eggs are a turquoise-green with no markings. Females lay 3-4 at a time and incubate them for 12-15 days. After hatching, the babies will remain in the nest for an additional 12-15 days before fledging. If the nest is successful, she will likely build her second one within a few hundred feet.
8. House Finch
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
House finches are common birds across much of the United States, and many people are familiar with them visiting backyard feeders. Depending on what habit they live in, they are known to nest in trees, on rock ledges or even on cactus. They are also known for nesting on man-made structures and around people’s homes in hanging planters, outdoor wreaths, ledges, and vents. Their cup-shaped nest is made of stems, leaves, roots and thin twigs, then lined with soft materials.
The color of House Finch eggs can vary from a pale blue to white, with purplish-black speckles. 2-6 eggs are laid per clutch, and incubated by the female for 13-14 days. After hatching, males will help females feed the babies, which fledge in about 12-19 days.
9. Blue Grosbeak
Scientific name: Passerina caerulea
Blue Grosbeaks spend their summers in the southern and central United States, as well as parts of Mexico and Central America. During the breeding season, they can be found in open habitats such as grasslands, savannas, and shrubby areas. Blue Grosbeaks generally arrive in their breeding range in late April or early May, and depart for their wintering grounds in September or October. Some individuals may overwinter in southern Florida and other parts of the southeastern United States, but most migrate to Central and northern South America to avoid the colder temperatures in their breeding range.
Blue Grosbeak eggs range from pale blue to white. They are usually unmarked but occasionally may have brown spots. 3-5 eggs are laid per clutch and incubated for 12-13 days. Time spent in the nest is generally short for the babies, only about 9-10 days. Unfortunately, their nests are often parasitized by cowbirds.
10. Red-winged Blackbird
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Red-winged blackbirds are found across North America, known for perching atop cattails in marshes and singing their “conk-la-lee” song. Nests are typically build near marshes or wetland areas, close to the ground in dense vegetation like cattails, bulrush and sedge. Plant material is woven around upright stalks to create a platform she can build a cup on from mud, leaves and dry grasses.
Red-winged Blackbird eggs are a light blue-green, sometimes almost gray, with black and brown markings. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time and incubated for 11-13 days. Young leave the nest within 11-14 days. Where marsh habitat is scarce, several nests may exist close together in one male’s territory.
11. Blue-Gray Gnatchatcher
Scientific name: Polioptila caerulea
Blue-gray gnatcatchers can be hard to spot. These tiny birds like to flit around the treetops chasing insects. Found year-round in Mexico and along the very southern border of the U.S., the move further north throughout the eastern U.S. to Canada and the southwest to breed in the spring. Their breeding range is slowly shifting north as average temperatures rise.
Nests are typically built at least half-way up a broadleaf tree. Their cup-like nest resembles a hummingbird’s, a tall cup of fibrous plant material decorated on the outside with lichen or bark. Nests are only about 1.5 inches wide, and hold 3-5 eggs. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher eggs are pale blue and speckled with brown. Eggs are incubated for 11-15 days.
12. Painted Bunting
Scientific name: Passerina ciris
The brilliantly colored Painted Bunting can be found breeding along the southeast coast and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Look for them in abandoned farms, woodlands between fields, stream-sides and coastal scrub. They prefer to nest 3-6 feet off the ground in plants like Spanish moss, mesquite, oak, myrtle and pine. Females can complete the nest in just a few days.
Painted Bunting eggs are a pale grayish-blue or bluish-white with fine brown speckles. 3-4 eggs are laid per clutch, and up to three clutches may be laid per season. Incubation takes about 12 days and nestling are ready to leave in just over a week.
13. Northern Mockingbird
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
This black and white bird is one of the most recognizable songbirds in the United States and Mexico. Native to the entire lower 48, the northern mockingbird spends its time loudly repeating the songs of other birds. It is territorial and often flicks its tail up and down and flashes its white wing bars. They are notorious for fiercely defending their nests, dive-bombing any other bird, animal or person that gets too close.
Mockingbird eggs are a pale blue or green with reddish or brown speckles. They lay 2-6 eggs at a time and incubation is about 12-13 days. Males construct the nest cup, while females add the inner lining.
14. Green Heron
Scientific name: Butorides virescens
Green Herons are found throughout much of North and Central America. During the breeding season, they can be found in the eastern and western parts of the United States, southern Canada, Mexico, and parts of Central America. Green Herons prefer to live near bodies of water such as swamps, marshes, ponds, and streams, where they can find plenty of food such as fish, frogs, and insects.
Males choose the nest site, usually on a large forked part of a tree or bush. Often they will choose sites that hang over the water. He may begin to build a nest before he even has a mate, but once paired up the female will finish the construction. Using long, thin sticks they will create a 8-12 inch wide shallow cup, and they do not line the nest with any soft materials. 3-5 pale green-blue eggs are laid per clutch, and incubated for 19-21 days. Both males and females tend the babies, who stay in the nest for 16-17 days but remain with the parents for several weeks.
15. Great Blue Heron
Scientific name: Ardea herodias
Great Blue Herons are familiar birds across much of North America. During the breeding season, Great Blue Herons can be found in wetland habitats such as marshes, swamps, and shallow ponds. They build their nests in trees or shrubs near water, or sometime on the ground in areas with little vegetation. The nests are made up of sticks, twigs, and other plant materials, and are lined with softer materials such as grasses, moss, and feathers. Depending on the location a nest may exist by itself, or with hundreds of other nests in huge colonies.
Great Blue Heron eggs are pale blue, and the blue color may fade the closer the eggs get to hatching. 2-6 eggs are laid per clutch and incubated for 27-29 days. Young utilize the nest for a longer time than many species, about 49-81 days.
16. Great Egret
Scientific name: Ardea alba
Throughout the breeding season, Great Egrets live in colonies with other waterbirds, and can be found across the southeastern states, as well as in scattered locations throughout the rest of the United States and southern Canada. These colonies are typically located near bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, marshes, estuaries, and islands, and are often found in trees or shrubs.
Great Egrets are colonial nesters, meaning that they nest in large groups called colonies or rookeries. These colonies can contain hundreds of nests, and are often located on islands or in other areas that are inaccessible to predators. Nests are platforms of large sticks up to 3 feet wide, with plant material to line the inside.
Great Egret eggs are an unmarked greenish blue color, and 1-6 are laid at a time. Incubation lasts 23-27 days and the young remain in the nest for up to 25 days after hatching.
17. Varied Thrush
Scientific name: Ixoreus naevius
The handsome Varied Thrush breeds in the dense coniferous forests of western North America, from Alaska to northern California. They prefer to nest in mature forests with a thick understory, using hemlock, spruce, fir and alder twigs for the nest. A middle layer of moss, mud or decomposing vegetation is added that hardens into a cup, which she will line with soft, dry materials.
Varied Thrush eggs are a sky blue, either unmarked or with brown speckles. 1-6 eggs are laid per clutch and incubated for 12 days. Young stay in the nest for 13-15 days.
18. Mountain Bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia currucoides
If you were wondering if the third bluebird species in North America also has blue eggs, the answer is yes. They can be found in the western half of North America, moving from the north in the summer to the south in the winter. Found most commonly in higher elevation areas up to 12,500 feet, in prairies, tundra edge, hillsides, pastures and meadows. Like the other bluebird species, they are cavity nesters and will readily use a birdhouse.
Mountain Bluebird eggs are a lighter blue than the other bluebird species, a pale blue or blue tinted white. They lay 4-8 eggs at a time.
19. Hermit Thrush
Scientific name: Catharus guttatus
The Hermit Thrush nests across Canada, parts of the middle western U.S. and the northeastern U.S. This cute brown thrush can be told apart from other, similar looking thrushes by the reddish hue on their tail. They typically nest on the ground or close to the ground, often underneath large evergreen trees and shrubs. Nests are made from leaves, grass, pine needles and decorated on the outside with mud and lichen.
Hermit Thrush eggs are light blue, and can be either unmarked or with brown spots. 3-6 eggs are laid and incubated for 11-13 days.
20. Cedar Waxwing
Scientific name: Bombycilla cedrorum
Listen for cedar waxwings’ delicate whistle throughout most of the United States. Populations winter in the lower states, summer in southern Canada, and spend the entire year in the northern United States. They love fruit and will visit yards with fruiting trees, bushes, or vines.
Eggs of the cedar waxwing are pale blue or light bluish-gray with black or gray spots. They can lay up to 6 eggs at a time, and incubation is 11-13 days. They like to weave cattail down, string, horsehair and other soft materials into the nest cup made of twigs and grasses.
Why Do Birds Lay Blue Eggs?
The blue coloring comes from a bile pigment called biliverdin, which is added to the shell before eggs are laid. Like many mysteries of nature, WHY this occurs is something scientists are still trying to figure out. Two of the main theories are protection from UV radiation, and to signal a healthy mate.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can penetrate through eggshells. The more pigment the egg has, the more UV rays are blocked. So having a blue egg can be like putting on sunscreen, or shading yourself with an umbrella. This can be quite useful to help protect developing embryos when the parent has to be off the nest finding food.
However, the increased pigment also absorbs more infrared radiation, which can heat up the inside of the egg. Too much heat in the egg will damage the developing chick. So a balance must be reached between blocking UV while not absorbing too much infrared. For bird nests in partly shaded areas, blue can provide good protection from UV without getting too hot. Birds who’s nests get more sun may have to go with pale blue or white eggs.
Blue eggs may also signal a quality mate. Some evidence suggests females with higher levels of biliverdin tend to be healthier overall. So, bright blue eggs can show males that a female will produce strong offspring, and that it is worth the males time to give the chicks protection and attention. In some studies with Gray Catbirds and American Robins, it has been shown that males provide more support (feeding and care) to babies that hatch from colorful eggs.
There are likely many other undiscovered reasons why birds lay blue eggs. With so many species laying eggs in such a wide variety of locations, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for all birds.