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What are Bird Eggs?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Bird eggs are an important step in the process of reproduction of birds. Instead of developing fertilized ova internally like mammals do, birds lay eggs which consist of an ovum protected by a hard outer shell. If the ovum has been fertilized, it will develop into an embryo which will eventually turn into a chick which will hatch from the egg once it has fully matured. In addition to being important for birds, bird eggs are also viewed as a useful food source by many animals, especially humans.

There are three major parts to bird eggs: the yolk, the white, and the shell. The yolk or vitellus provides a source of nutrition to the chick as it develops. The white or albumen surrounds the yolk, shrinking over time to give the chick room to grow, while the shell protects the developing embryo until it is ready to hatch out.

Naturally, birds do not keep a store of eggs ready to go inside their bodies, as this would be rather uncomfortable and impractical. Instead, birds periodically deposit layers of calcium and other materials around their ova, forming an egg which is pushed out when the bird is ready to lay. When laid, eggs can be oval to round in shape, and they vary widely in size and color.

As a general rule, the smaller the bird, the smaller the egg, because the egg needs to be pushed out of the body, so there are certain size limitations involved. Egg colors can include brown, blue, green, and white, with some birds producing speckled or flecked eggs. Spotted bird eggs are sometimes collected by artists and nature enthusiasts as they are visually interesting.

In the case of fertilized eggs, incubation is usually required for an embryo to develop. Incubation is done by the parent birds, who sit on the egg to warm it as it develops. It is also possible to use an artificial incubator to incubate eggs, a common practice in livestock production. Unfertilized eggs will fail to develop and they will ultimately rot.

Every part of the egg is edible, although humans tend to avoid the eggshell. Eggs are high in protein and other nutrients, since the rich yolks are designed to provide nourishment to baby birds as they develop. Eggs can be prepared and used in a wide variety of ways, with chicken, duck, and goose eggs being most commonly consumed by humans.

In addition to being a food source, bird eggs can also be used by artists. Some artists like to blow eggs, carefully punching holes in the shell and forcing the contents of the egg out. The hollow eggshell can be painted, carved, or otherwise decorated to create a work of delicate art.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On May 10, 2014

@browncoat - For some people, a chick inside an egg is a delicacy. I haven't had one myself, but I've seen people eat them on weird food challenges, or when visiting other countries. They are usually ducklings I think.

By browncoat — On May 09, 2014

@MrsPramm - I remember how bad rotten eggs could smell, but I think, as a kid, the worst thing that I associated with eggs was occasionally cracking one that had been fertilized. We tried to keep the rooster separate from the laying hens, but we weren't always successful.

It is extremely disturbing to crack open an egg and see a whole bunch of blood vessels, or the tiny body of a chick embryo.

I also had to dissect a living egg (which was only a few days old, so there was no nervous system) when I was at university and several people in the class refused to do it. I almost did, but went through with it because I knew that logically, there was no creature in pain, but it went against the grain. I'm glad supermarket eggs are usually not destined to be chicks even if they were allowed to incubate.

By MrsPramm — On May 09, 2014

If you keep chickens or any other birds, make absolutely sure that you know where the bird eggs are. We had some chickens in an enclosure when I was a kid and they would occasionally escape and go wandering in the rest of the property.

My most vivid memory from childhood was accidentally breaking an old clutch of eggs that a wayward hen had laid in some long grass. They smelled worse than anything I had ever smelled up to that point. Put me off eggs for a long time.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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