It’s not uncommon, particularly in spring, to happen upon bird eggs, pieces of shell or nests. If you’ve ever wondered which bird they belong to, this illustrated guide should prove helpful.
If you come across egg remnants on the ground, it’s likely that they have been ejected by the parents after hatching. The adults may have carried these some distance from the nest, so as not to alert predators to the presence of the young.
Remember, before trimming any hedges or pruning shrubs and trees in spring, search through them carefully for any indication of an active nest. It’s illegal to intentionally destroy or damage nests or eggs, so postpone pruning if you see any. It won’t do the plant any harm to delay pruning a month or so.
Check out Monty Don’s advice on hedge trimming and garden birds.
Identify more garden wildlife:
Use this guide to garden bird eggs to help you identify eggs, bits of shell or nests you come across.
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) egg illustration
Nest: Makes a neat nest of twigs and grass, cemented with mud, lined with moss, rotten wood or dun, set low in a hedge or ivy thicket.
Eggs: Lays 3-6 cool-blue eggs, usually strongly mottled with messy brown flecks. 25-28mm long.
House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
House sparrow (Passer domesticus) egg illustration
Nest: Makes a nest of dry grass, string and feathers in any hole or niche on a building, in a creeper thicket, dense hedge or buried deep in conifer foliage.
Eggs: Lays 3-7 very pale bluish or off-white eggs, irregularly stippled with brown, usually denser at the rounded end. 21-22mm long.
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Blackbird (Turdus merula) egg illustration
Nest: Builds a low nest in hedges, bushes or ivy, similar to those of a thrush, but with more moss mixed with the mud, and a dry grass lining.
Eggs: Lays 3-5 mottled brown on pale-blue eggs, sometimes unmarked. 27-31mm long.
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) egg illustration
Nest: Famous for nesting in any hollow in a steep bank, creeper thicket, hedge or fallen flowerpot at the back of a shed. Nests are a mess of dead leaves and moss, lined with feathers and hair.
Eggs: Lays 3-9 beige-to-white eggs, clear or flecked with brown. 20-21mm long.
Great tit (Parus major)
Great tit (Parus major) egg illustration
Nest: Makes nests in tree holes, nest boxes or very thick hedges, mostly made of moss and fine grass, lined with a dense layer of hair and down.
Eggs: Lays 5-11 dirty-white eggs, flecked with brown, often more stippled at the rounded end. 17-18mm long.
Coal tit (Periparus ater)
Coal tit (Periparus ater) egg illustration
Nest: Nests near or on the ground, in a hole in a steep bank or tree stump. Looks similar to a great tit’s nest (above).
Eggs: Lays 5-14 pure-white, brown stippled or heavily large-flecked eggs. 14-15mm long.
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) egg illustration
Nest: Chooses a nest site low down in hedges, ivy or evergreens. Builds a rough nest, with an outer frame of twigs and grass, neatly lined with moss, hair or wool.
Eggs: Lays 3-6 cool-blue unspotted eggs. 17-18mm long.
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) egg illustration
Nest: Makes loose colonial groups of nests in trees, cliffs or roof spaces. These are large untidy masses of twigs and grass built by the male but lined by the female with feathers, moss, wool and leaves.
Eggs: Lays 4-9 clear blue/green eggs. 18-19mm long.
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) egg illustration
Nest: In a dense ivy or thicket, roof thatch or holes in old buildings. Builds a neatly domed, globular nest of moss, grass and dead leaves, lined with feathers, with a small entry hole at side.
Eggs: Lays 3-11 off-white eggs, usually with a halo of stipple at the rounded end. 13-16mm long.
Provide a treat for ground-feeding birds
Provide ground-feeding birds like thrushes and blackbirds with a treat by watering a patch of grass, then pegging down a sheet of polythene. An old compost bag opened out will do.
Worms will be drawn to the surface and slugs will enjoy the darkness and moisture provided. First thing in the morning, remove the sheet and watch as the birds start arriving.