10 Gorgeously Colored Eggs, Straight From Birds

Easter may bring on a riot of festively decorated eggs, but birds mastered the art long ago.

A fieldfare bird nest with baby birds and bird eggs in it
Birds can adapt to climate change by changing the time they lay their eggs. (Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/Shutterstock)

While the egg as a symbol of new life has been around for as long as humans have been able to think metaphorically, dyeing them seems to be a (relatively) more recent tradition. But thanks to evolution, birds have been producing wonderfully intriguing eggs for tens of millions of years, no packets of dye required.

Eggs are remarkable things. A bird's flight would be mighty beleaguered carrying the weight of a baby, and thus, the egg. It's like an exterior womb where the baby grows and is nurtured until it has developed enough to survive. Although a brilliant solution, it has its risks; mainly in that eggs become easy-to-purloin sources of protein for predators. Because of their vulnerability, eggs have adapted specific colors and patterns to help create camouflage with their surroundings and specific types of nests. And as for bright blue and other vividly colored eggs, scientists are still trying to figure that one out, but they note that most mammal predators are dichromats and have limited color vision. Birds are sensitive to color, and vibrant eggs may serve them better.

Whatever the reason, eggs in all of their giant, tiny, plain, speckled, splotched, and many-hued beauty are a lovely sight to behold. Consider the following:

1. Robin

robin eggs in a nest
The beautiful blue of robin's eggs. Maggie Fox/Flickr

It's not every bird that gets to have a color named after its eggs.

2. King Penguin

King penguin egg
Chris Pearson/Flickr

The eggs of the king penguin may be pale in hue but are remarkable for several other reasons. First, they are notably pyriform (pear-shaped); so much so that some practically come to a point. Pyriform eggs have some nifty physics to them. If they become loose, they roll in a circle, not away in a straight line. And for the king penguin, this is a good thing because they don't have nests! For the egg's complete 55-day incubation, it is tucked underneath mom's and dad's belly flap to be waddled about on their feet until it's time to hatch.

3. Cassowary

Cassowary egg
That's a big green egg. Wikimedia Commons

It comes as little surprise that the planet's third-largest bird, the cassowary, would create the planet's third-largest egg. At nearly 6 1/2 inches in length, it's second only to those laid by emus and ostriches. What is surprising is that vivid avocado green!

4. Rock Bunting

Bunting egg
Wikimedia Commons

Like most buntings, the rock bunting lays eggs that are marked with a unique drizzle pattern. It's work that would make Jackson Pollack proud.

5. Emu

Emu egg

Like some kind of malachite treasures, these eggs from an emu are on the brighter side of the range, which runs from blue-green to a green so deep it appears black.

6. Great Blue Heron

Great blue heron eggs
Great Blue Heron Nest Cam/Cornell Lab

Of course the great blue heron lays great blue eggs!

7. Ostrich

Ostrich egg

Ranging in tones from white to a variety of creams, this granddaddy of bird eggs — the largest of all — can weigh as much as 3.3 pounds and is the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs.

8. Northern Mockingbird

Northern mocking jay
Wikimedia Commons

Eggs from these intelligent birds — males can learn up to 200 different songs during their lives — come in a range of speckled pale blue to greenish white.

9. Hummingbird

hummingbird eggs in a nest
A tiny nest for a tiny bird. Tristan F/Flickr

If you find beauty in the teeny things, the wee pixie eggs of the hummingbird are for you. The smallest of the bunch — those from the bumblebee hummingbird — weigh an almost non-existent .02 ounces; 4,700 of them could fit inside one ostrich egg. The largest hummingbird eggs are still minuscule, measuring a mere 3/4 of an inch in length.

10. Chicken

a variety of heirloom hen eggs in shades of white, light brown, and pale blue

laughingmango / Getty Images

And lest we forget our favorite fowl, chickens have some pizzazz to bring to the hen party too. From the pale green and blue eggs of the Auracauna to the deep cocoa mahogany eggs of the Marans, everyone's beloved backyard layers are no slouches when it comes to pretty eggs.