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Why Eggs (And Maybe Jelly-beans) Are Oval-Shaped Instead Of Just Round
Posted on Monday, April 02, 2012 by eNature
Gourmet jelly beans can come with the same speckled or mottled colors found on the eggs of some bird species.
Gourmet jelly beans can come with the same speckled or mottled colors found on the eggs of some bird species.
© Brandon Dilbeck

This is the time of year when eggs are turning up everywhere— in Easter baskets for many, not too mention in bird nests across the country too.

With all these eggs around, it’s easy to take them for granted. 

While we tend to not talk much about bird nests at because we just don’t want to encourage folks to disturb nesting birds, eggs are actually very specialized objects and full of remarkable stories.

For instance, ever wonder why birds lay eggs of different colors and shapes?

There’s a good reason for just about everything we encounter in nature and, as you’d expect, eggs are no exception. 

Why are do eggs come in colors?  Birds’ eggs are colored for protective reasons. The parent birds that incubate them are not always on the nest covering them and at those times the eggs are exposed to predators. The colors, speckles or spots on them are camouflage. This also explains why birds that nest in cavities often lay all white eggs. They can’t be seen even when the parent birds are not sitting on them.

Why do the shapes of bird eggs vary? Again, to protect them. Birds that nest on cliffs, such as many seabirds, tend to have eggs that are smaller at one end than at the other. This is to make them roll in a circle and less likely to fall off the cliff. Birds with round eggs, usually build deep nests that keep them from rolling out.

How do baby birds hatch? They have a so-called “egg tooth” on the top of their upper mandible, which cuts through the egg shell when it is time for them to come out. The egg tooth falls off soon after hatching.

Why do the eggs in a nest often all hatch at about the same time? Because most birds lay an egg a day, but do not begin incubating them until the last egg is laid. One notable exception is the barn owl, which begins incubation with the laying of the first egg. That’s why the youngsters in a brood range in size and age from the oldest to the youngest.

And as for jelly-beans and their shape… they too have evolved.  According to at least one cultural historian, jelly beans appear to have become more egg-shaped and less bean-shaped over the years as the candy, thought to have first been created around the time of the Civil War, has become more associated with Easter and children’s Easter baskets.

Have a favorite fact or anecdote about nesting birds you’d like to share?  Add it to our comments section below!


What to do if you find a baby bird or other young animal »

Some birds just place their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave the parenting to others! »



The great French designer used to say that perfect designs are the egg. If the egg was a cube, the life of the chicken would be impossible. Same for a woman’s breasts. If they were a cube a baby would not be able to breath while breast fed.

Posted by Albert Reingewirtz on 4/4

when i was younger, robins and doves would alternate years nesting in the transoms above our front door and the door to our high porch, which was off of my bedroom.  i used to love waking up to hear the cheeping of the babies and the watch the adults come back with breakfast.  i’d quietly climb up on a step-stool to watch, and the birds became very accustomed to this.  my husband and i now live in my childhood home, and although birds have not nested in the transoms for years, i always have hope every spring that this will be the year…

Posted by julieann on 4/4

Www love those baby birds and tho
se eggs!

Posted by ladybird on 4/4

New word to learn:anthropomorphism. Eggs colored for camouflage? Eggs oval so that they don’t roll off the nest? Why not say that birds sing because they’re trying to talk like humans? Why not say that a giraffe’s neck is long because it wants to reach the most tasty shoots on tall trees?

Come on people, next we’re going to hear that hummingbirds stash themselves in eagles’ feathers to hitchhike to Central and South America. Good grief! This is a scientific magazine.

Posted by Mo Mareschal on 4/6

So what would you say to the wisdom of Raymond Loewy, the designer that if eggs were cubes the life of chicken would be impossible?

Posted by Albert Reingewirtz on 4/6

I always imagined that they were tapered so the anal sphincter wouldn’t slam shut.

Posted by Steve Anderson on 4/14

You are 100% correct. “If the egg was a cube, the life of the chicken would be impossible” Raymond Aaron giving the egg the title of a perfect design fitting the p[urpose. (The quote is not exact because it is from memory)

Posted by Albert on 4/14

How are bright blue robin’s eggs “camouflaged?

Posted by MikeHenrySC on 4/15

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Posted by Luct Sympton on 4/20
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