Speckled eggs have tiny irregular spots on their shells to blend better with the environment and help strengthen the egg. Besides those practical adaptations, people love to admire sich eggs for their unique and attractive appearance.
Birds get the colors of their eggs from two pigments: protoporphyrin, which produces this reddish-brown color, and biliverdin, which produces blue and green colors.
Here’s what each of these brown-speckled eggs looks like.
Brown Speckled Bird Eggs
Killdeers are big plovers found in North, Central, and South America. They nest in open fields with very short vegetation (0.4 inches tall) and occasionally on rooftops.
Killdeers lay from 4 to 6 buff-colored eggs that are heavily marked with dark brown markings. Such an egg appearance allows it to blend well with the surroundings.
Their breeding season lasts from March to August and both parents will take turns in incubating the eggs. Their pear-shaped eggs are around 1.5 inches long and 1.1 inches wide – parents incubate them from 22 to 28 days.
Unfortunately, almost half of the eggs killdeer lay will not hatch, mostly due to predators (gulls, crows, raccoons, skunks) and parasitic birds.
2. Northern Cardinal
Northern cardinals are one of the USA’s most popular birds. These familiar backyard birds are state birds of 7 states and are abundant throughout most of the eastern parts of the country.
Females are the ones that choose and build the nests – males might occasionally bring them the materials. After 3-9 days of building their cup-shaped nests in a well-hidden place in dense shrubs or low trees, females will lay eggs.
Many birdwatchers will recognize northern cardinal eggs due to their color, speckled pattern, size, and shape.
Northern cardinals have a clutch of 2 to 5 eggs that can be grayish-white, buffy-white, or greenish-white with brown speckles. The eggs are around 1 inch long and 0.7 inches wide, and these birds might lay them once, twice, and sometimes four times per year.
Females incubate the eggs for 12 to 13 days with rare males helping with incubation. They will mostly care for and feed each brood while females incubate their next clutch of eggs. The young will fledge some 10 days after hatching but not all will survive. Some predators like snakes, blue jays, crows, squirrels, and domestic cats might hunt their eggs and chicks.
3. American Golden Plover
These medium-sized plovers got their scientific name “pluvialis” from a Latin word referring to rain due to a common belief that golden plovers flocked when rain was imminent.
American golden plovers breed in the Arctic tundra of northern Canada and Alaska and nest on the ground. Males will build nests that are around 4 inches wide and 1.8 inches deep and line them with lichen, grass, leaves, and occasionally twigs. The pair might use the same nest for years.
Female American golden plovers lay 3 to 5 white to buff eggs that are heavily spotted and splotched with dark brown and black spots. The eggs measure around 2 inches long and around 1.4 inches wide; they stay well-camouflaged when seen against the varied tundra vegetation. These birds will lay eggs once per year.
Both parents share incubation duties – males incubate their brown-spotted eggs during the day while females do that during the night. After 26 to 27 days, chicks will hatch, leave the nests after a few hours, and will feed themselves after just a day.
4. Eastern Meadowlark
Despite what the name might suggest, eastern meadowlarks are not larks but blackbirds. These medium-sized birds that look similar to related western meadowlarks are common in eastern parts of North America.
Eastern meadowlarks build their nests on the ground, well-hidden by the dense vegetation of grasslands they live in. It takes around 4 to 8 days for females to build the nests on their own – they are cup-shaped, made of grasses, plants, and strips of bark, and measure 2-3 inches deep and 6-9 inches in diameter.
Eastern meadowlarks lay 2-7 white eggs with brown spots and speckles once or twice a year. Their eggs measure from 0.9 to 1.2 inches long and around 0.8 inches wide. The egg shape is usually ovate, sometimes short and elliptical; the incubation period lasts from 13-16 days.
5. Western Meadowlark
Western meadowlarks are medium-sized songbirds that nest on the ground in open grasslands across western and central parts of North America. They are state birds of Kansas, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Wyoming, and North Dakota.
Female western meadowlarks build their nests on the ground and cover them with roofs woven from grass; due to such hidden nature, people might accidentally destroy their nests while mowing or hiking.
A single male might have several females nesting in his territory and after a week of work, the finished nest will measure 7-8 inches wide and 2-3 inches deep. Western meadowlarks lay 5-6 white-colored eggs heavily spotted with brown and purple. They lay eggs at daily intervals and the eggs measure around 1.2 inches long and 0.9 inches wide.
Females will incubate them for 13-15 days and chicks will hatch altricial (underdeveloped) and nearly naked. Young fledge after around 11 days and begin flying on their own after 3 weeks.
Brown-headed cowbirds will often replace meadowlarks’ eggs with their own for these birds to raise (this is known as brood parasitism).
6. Red Knot
Red knots or just knots are medium-sized shorebirds that nest in High Arctic habitats. There are two subspecies found in the USA with all of their populations declining.
The rufa subspecies that was listed as Threatened in 2015 winters in Florida and the adjacent Gulf Coast. Another US subspecies, the roselaari, is found along the West Coast, mostly in Alaska.
These birds are seasonally monogamous and stay together for a season. They nest on the ground and build their nests using leaves, lichen, and moss. Males will make 3-5 nest scrapes in their territories before the females arrive and select the ones they like the most.
Red knots usually lay 3-4 eggs once a year that are pale olive-green with small brown spots. The eggs measure 1.7 inches long and 1.1 inches wide.
Both parents will incubate the eggs for around 22 days and the young can leave the nest soon after the hatching – they learn to fly after 18 days. Females will leave breeding grounds even before the chicks hatch with males providing the necessary parental care.
To protect themselves while incubating the eggs, red knots will secrete the waxy oil they cover themselves with. The chemical composition of this wax will change as the breeding season approaches, making it harder for predators to detect these birds on the ground.
7. Red-necked Phalarope
Red-necked phalaropes are also known as northern phalaropes and hyperborean phalaropes. These small waders breed in the Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, with some North American populations migrating to southwestern parts of the USA for the winter.
These birds breed around lakes, bogs, and marshes in the Arctic tundra, and have reverse roles during the breeding season. Females are bigger than males and take the lead in courtship; they will often fight with other females over the males and will defend their partners from them. Males are the ones that incubate the eggs and care for the young while some females may try to find other males to breed with as soon as they lay the eggs.
Red-necked phalaropes lay from 2 to 6 olive to green eggs speckles with brown, black, and pale purple. The eggs are pear-shaped and measure around 1.2 inches long and 0.8 inches wide; males incubate them from 17 to 29 days. The young mostly feed themselves and will learn to fly 3 weeks after hatching.
Read More: Examples of birds that lay green eggs
8. Blue Jay
Blue jays are small songbirds native to eastern and central parts of North America. They breed in deciduous and coniferous forests and both partners will build open-cup nests in the trees. Their mating season lasts from mid-March to July and if you are lucky enough to have some nesting in your yard, you will recognize their beautiful brown spotted eggs with ease.
Blue jays lay 2-7 bluish or light brown eggs with brown spots once a year. They are monogamous and their eggs measure around 1.2 inches long and 0.8 inches wide. Females incubate the eggs for 16-18 days while the males feed them during that period. Their young fledge 17-21 days after hatching.
Unfortunately, similar to other birds on our list, blue jays’ eggs are not safe from predators. Squirrels, cats, snakes, crows, raccoons, opossums, and even other jays will prey on their eggs and young.
Ospreys are white-headed hawks that breed from breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida; these birds also winter south from the southern US down to Argentina.
Although they usually mate for life, some females will breed with several males during the breeding season which usually lasts from January to May. Using sticks, bark, sod, grass, vine, and algae, both partners will participate in nest building – males fetch the materials while females arrange them.
New pairs will build small nests that are less than 2.5 feet in diameter and some 3-6 inches deep. As the years go by, they will improve the nest and might end up with nests large enough for people to sit in – they can measure 10-13 feet deep and 3-6 feet in diameter!
Ospreys lay 1-4 creamy eggs with red and brown spots. The eggs measure around 2.5 inches long and 1.8 inches wide and weigh around 2.3 oz.
Incubation lasts from 35 to 43 days and newly hatched chicks can weigh as little as 1.8 oz. If there’s not enough food available, of those 1-4 chicks, only the first ones to hatch are most likely to survive. One of the biggest threats to osprey eggs is raccoons.
10. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar waxwings are one of the most striking and handsome birds in the Northeast. These yellow-tailed birds got their common name from the waxy red tips on their secondary wing feathers.
Cedar waxwings are monogamous and both partners will build a nest of grass, twigs, bark, and hair; the parents also take care of the young. Although both look for nest sites together, females are the ones that make the final decision.
It will take them 5-6 days and over 2,500 trips to the nest to complete it; they might also steal some material from other birds’ nests, robbing eastern kingbirds, orioles, vireos, and yellow warblers in the process.
Cedar waxwings will have a clutch size of 2-6 bluish-gray eggs finely spotted with brown and black. The eggs have a very smooth surface, oval shape, and almost no gloss – they measure around 0.8 inches long and 0.6 inches wide. Females will incubate the eggs for 11 to 13 days and will have one or two broods per year. 14 to 18 days after hatching, the young will leave the nest.
Bird eggs can have various large or small spots or markings on their shells. Such markings come from various pigments, range in color and size, and can be found on eggs laid by a variety of bird species.
Some of the most common brown speckled bird eggs include those laid by cardinals, meadowlarks, knots, jays, ospreys, and others.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out our photo guide on white bird eggs with brown spots.