Do Birds Move Their Eggs? A Look At Avian Nesting Behaviors

Birds go to great lengths to build protective nests for their eggs. But sometimes environmental factors or survival instincts require adult birds to physically relocate their unhatched young. So do avian parents ever move eggs from one nest to another?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most birds typically don’t move their eggs, but some species will in special circumstances. Reasons include environmental threats, lack of nesting sites, or social breeding habits.

In this in-depth article, we’ll explore the fascinating nesting behaviors of various birds to understand if and why they need to move eggs. We’ll look at how adult birds transport eggs, species that exhibit egg moving, and reasons behind this unusual avian activity.

Whether you’ve found an abandoned egg or just want to learn about bird breeding, read on to discover the surprising flexibility of birds when it comes to moving eggs!

How Birds Physically Move Eggs

Birds have fascinating nesting behaviors, including the ability to physically move their eggs. This unique behavior is observed in various bird species, and it serves different purposes depending on the circumstances. Let’s take a closer look at how birds physically move their eggs.

With Beaks or Feet

When it comes to moving their eggs, birds primarily use their beaks or feet. Depending on the size of the eggs and the bird’s anatomy, they may carefully grasp the egg with their beak and transport it to a new location.

This method is commonly seen in smaller bird species such as sparrows and finches.

On the other hand, larger bird species like raptors or waterbirds may use their feet to move their eggs. They carefully grip the egg with their talons and transfer it to a different spot. This method allows them to have a secure hold on the egg while navigating through their environment.

Nest Relocation Distances

The distance birds move their eggs can vary significantly depending on the species and specific circumstances. Some birds may only move their eggs a few meters away from the original nest to a more concealed location, providing added protection from predators.

Others may relocate their entire nest, including the eggs, to a different area.

For example, ground-nesting birds like plovers or terns often face threats from predators or disturbances. To safeguard their eggs, they may move them to a new spot within the nesting area or even to an entirely different location nearby. These movements ensure the survival of their offspring.

Careful Transport Strategies

Birds have developed various strategies to safely transport their eggs during relocation. They exhibit remarkable coordination and balance while carrying the delicate eggs. Some birds will tightly grip the egg to prevent it from rolling or falling during transport.

Additionally, birds may also use their bodies to provide stability and protection to the eggs. They may partially cover the eggs with their feathers, shielding them from external elements and potential harm.

This behavior helps regulate the temperature and humidity around the eggs, ensuring optimal conditions for their development.

In some cases, birds may even temporarily suspend the incubation process during relocation. Once they have settled in the new location, they resume incubating the eggs, ensuring their proper development.

Understanding how birds physically move their eggs provides us with a glimpse into their remarkable adaptability and intelligence. It showcases their ability to protect and ensure the survival of their offspring in ever-changing environments.

Species Known to Move Eggs

Brush Turkeys

One species of bird known for its egg-moving behavior is the Brush Turkey. These large, ground-dwelling birds are native to Australia and are part of the megapode family. Brush Turkeys create large mounds of vegetation and soil where they lay their eggs.

However, instead of incubating the eggs themselves, they rely on the heat generated by the mound to hatch them. To ensure that the eggs receive the optimal amount of heat, Brush Turkeys are known to move and rearrange the eggs within the mound.

This behavior helps to regulate the temperature and ensure the successful hatching of their young.


Another species that exhibits egg-moving behavior is the Grebe. Grebes are aquatic birds found in various parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Africa. These birds build floating nests on bodies of water and lay their eggs within them.

However, due to the unstable nature of these nests, which are made from plant material and anchored to vegetation, the eggs often end up moving around. This movement can be caused by wind, water currents, or even the actions of the parents.

Despite the constant shifting, Grebes are adept at finding and repositioning their eggs to ensure their safety and development.


Flamingos, known for their vibrant pink feathers and long, slender legs, are also known to move their eggs. These elegant birds are found in various parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Flamingos typically build their nests in shallow water or on mud flats, creating a cone-shaped mound made of mud and vegetation. Due to the unstable nature of these nests, caused by wind and water currents, the eggs often need to be repositioned to prevent them from falling into the water.

Flamingos use their beaks and feet to carefully move their eggs, ensuring their safety and incubation.

It is fascinating to observe the different strategies employed by birds to ensure the successful incubation and hatching of their eggs. The ability to move and rearrange eggs is a remarkable adaptation that showcases the resourcefulness and ingenuity of avian species.

Reasons for Egg Relocation

Birds have developed various nesting behaviors to ensure the survival of their offspring. One such behavior is the relocation of their eggs. There are several reasons why birds may choose to move their eggs from one location to another.

Predator or Environmental Threats

Birds are highly protective of their eggs and will go to great lengths to keep them safe from predators or environmental threats. If a bird detects the presence of a predator, such as a snake or a raccoon, near its nest, it may choose to move its eggs to a safer location.

This relocation helps to reduce the risk of predation and increases the chances of the eggs hatching successfully.

Similarly, birds may also relocate their eggs in response to environmental threats. For example, if a severe storm or flooding is imminent, birds may move their eggs to higher ground or to a more sheltered location to protect them from the elements.

This adaptive behavior showcases the instinctual drive birds have to ensure the survival of their offspring.

Limited Safe Nesting Spaces

Another reason for egg relocation is the limited availability of safe nesting spaces. Birds often face competition from other bird species for suitable nesting sites. In densely populated areas, where nesting spots are scarce, birds may need to relocate their eggs if their original nesting site becomes occupied by another bird.

This behavior ensures that the eggs have the best chance of survival by being placed in a secure location. By moving their eggs to an alternative nesting site, birds can avoid conflicts with other birds and increase the likelihood of successful incubation and fledging.

Communal Nesting Habits

Some bird species exhibit communal nesting habits, where multiple females lay their eggs in a single nest. This behavior is often seen in species like the sociable weaver and the common murre. In these cases, the presence of multiple eggs in a single nest can attract predators.

To mitigate the risk of predation, birds that engage in communal nesting may periodically move their eggs within the nest or even between nests. By redistributing the eggs, they reduce the chances of predators finding and depleting all the eggs in one location.

This strategy increases the overall chances of successful hatching and fledging for the communal nesting group.

Understanding the reasons for egg relocation provides valuable insights into the complex nesting behaviors of birds. It highlights the remarkable adaptability and resourcefulness of these avian creatures in ensuring the survival of their offspring.

Risks and Challenges of Moving Eggs

Moving eggs is a risky endeavor for birds, as it poses various challenges and potential dangers. These challenges can have negative consequences for both the eggs and the birds themselves. Let’s take a closer look at some of these risks:

Damage or Breakage

One of the primary risks of moving eggs is the potential for damage or breakage. Eggs are delicate structures that require careful handling. When birds attempt to move their eggs, there is always a risk of accidentally dropping or bumping them, which can result in cracked or broken shells.

A damaged egg may not be able to provide the necessary protection and nutrients for the developing embryo, leading to a failed or compromised hatching process.

Embryo Disturbance

Moving eggs can also disrupt the developing embryos inside. The constant jostling and movement can cause stress and disturbance to the delicate balance required for proper embryonic development. This disturbance may interfere with the embryo’s ability to receive oxygen and nutrients from the surrounding environment, potentially leading to developmental abnormalities or even death.

Returning to the Same Nest

Another challenge that birds face when moving their eggs is the difficulty in locating and returning to the same nest. Birds often rely on visual cues or landmarks to find their nests, and when eggs are moved, these familiar markers may no longer be present.

This can result in confusion and disorientation for the bird, making it challenging for them to find their way back to their original nesting site. This can have significant consequences for the survival of the eggs, as the parent bird may struggle to provide the necessary care and protection in a new location.

It is essential to note that not all bird species engage in the behavior of moving their eggs. The extent to which birds move their eggs varies widely across different species and is influenced by various factors, including environmental conditions, predation risks, and individual instinctual behaviors.

To learn more about specific bird species and their nesting behaviors, you can visit reputable sources such as Audubon or All About Birds.


While most birds opt to meticulously incubate eggs in a single nest, some unique species exhibit flexibility when circumstances require moving eggs. Understanding the behaviors that drive birds to transport their unhatched young helps provide insight into different avian nesting strategies.

Whether hunkering down or relocating, parent birds certainly go above and beyond to give their future babies the best chance at survival!

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