What kind of bird lays eggs on the ground? What seems like a dangerous strategy can actually work well for certain species!

The practice of building nests and laying eggs on the ground is called “ground-nesting.” In contrast, popular culture would have you think that most birds with flight will build their nests and families up in the trees. However, that’s not always the case. There are more ground-nesting birds than you think.

What are these ground-laying birds’ eggs? Read on to find out more on this exciting topic!

What Are The Types Of Ground Nests?

Here are the types of ground nests that birds from all over the globe are using.


A scrape is a simple, shallow hole dug into the ground. In order to stop eggs from rolling out of the nest, a rim is constructed from the soil and can be reinforced with materials like grass, stones, and the like.

This is basically like hiding eggs in plain sight! In order to camouflage the eggs, some birds will add some more foliage, branches, and twigs to help them become less susceptible to being stolen or taken by predators. 


 ground-nesting birds

A mound refers to the burying of the eggs under a protective covering made of soil, twigs, grass, leaves, and similar materials. In effect, the eggs buried are incubated by the compostable quality of the materials act as a compost heap that creates heat.

It’s critical that the temperature and quality of the mound nest to make sure the brood of eggs will make it through the incubation process. The female typically assesses the mound that has been created by the male to ensure that the mound is optimally built for the growth of the eggs.


A burrow is different from a mound nest in that the underground cavern that the birds create by digging into the soil can be used as their own shelter. The parent bird in charge of incubation – whether the male or the female – resides inside the burrow with the eggs and stays there to do its job.

There are also birds who use the abandoned burrows of ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and tortoises. These nests provide good shelter against harsh weather conditions and camouflage from predators.

What Kind Of Bird Lays Eggs On The Ground?

What birds create their nests in the ground? You may be surprised that there are a lot of species of bird that make ground nests! Here are the types of ground birds who build their nests low.

 types of ground birds

Flightless Birds

This is one of the most obvious choices – flightless birds can’t fly up to trees and build their nests up high. Their eggs are also bigger in size compared to other birds, so it makes more sense to create their nests on the ground.

A lot of flightless birds keep their eggs in scrapes and resort to guarding the nest for most of the time. They are equipped with legs and beaks that can help with the task of protecting their young.

Examples of these birds include:

  • Ostriches
  • Emus
  • Rheas

From here, nesting behavior is generally similar in orders of birds, though there are some exceptions.


Waterfowl are a group of birds that are specially equipped to spend time in the water. They are great swimmers, with waterproof feathers that repel heavy water and webbed feet that are strong flippers.

These birds choose dry places close to water to nest, making an effort to select a land sheltered with enough vegetation. Ducks, for example, make typical nests out of twigs and leaves, but some people leave out nesting boxes for the benefit of these birds. 

 what kind of bird lays eggs on the ground

Examples of ground-nesting waterfowl are:

  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Swans
  • Coots
  • Loons

Shorebirds or Waders

The order Charadriiformes is referred to as “shorebirds” in North America and “wader” in Europe. They live in the shorelines and mudflats and feed on the creatures of these lands – think insects, small crabs, shrimps, and the like.

Because they live along the sea and bodies of water, it isn’t likely that there are many trees in the area, making the ground an obvious choice. Their nests are usually reinforced to avoid the attention of prey or being carried away by waves of water.

Examples of ground-nesting shorebirds include:

  • Killdeer
  • Avocets
  • Stilts

Game Birds

Game birds are species of birds that are being hunted for sport or farmed by humans. These birds can also be protected by local laws, depending on the location.

Since most game birds are hunted for sport because are not particularly good at flying away from predators, ground nests are a good choice for them.

Examples of ground-nesting game birds include

  • Turkeys
  • Pheasants
  • Grouse
  • Quails
  • Partridges


Certain Songbirds

Some small birds that are found in suburban areas and close to the forests use ground-nesting methods.

Small birds should protect their small eggs high up and hidden in trees, right? While that’s what many songbirds do, typically in cup and pendant nests, a few prefer to have ground nests.

Because of the location of these nests, they are unfortunately prone to attacks of prey or interference if they are not appropriately camouflaged. If you come across a ground nest around your home or in the forests, try your best not to interfere with it! Even if it inconveniences you, try to wait out the nesting period.

Examples of ground-nesting songbirds include:

  • Thrush
  • Warblers
  • Larks
  • Juncos


What kind of bird lays eggs on the ground? As seen in this article, a wide variety, in fact!

When you see eggs in the ground, whether around suburban areas or when traveling, you should consider if the bird meant to hide away their eggs on the ground.

One thing is for sure: you should try not to interfere in the course of nature. Even if you are tempted to bring a nest somewhere you think is safer, it’s best to leave these eggs alone.

Have you seen a ground nest out in the wild? What bird do you think built the nest and laid the eggs? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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