Last week I gave you this egg to try your hand at identifying:
Eggs can be tricky, since they are largely similar in shape and, since egg collecting was banned many years ago, there are few modern resources for identification.
However, you can pick up clues by thinking about colour and pattern and working out what advantage it may have. So you might expect a brightly coloured egg to be laid in a well disguised and deep nest, where it’s unlikely to be spotted except by the parent, whereas a yellowy speckled egg is more likely to be camouflaged if laid in a fairly open, sandy environment.
So this egg was probably laid somewhere near the sea, which means it’s probably from a charadriiform bird (those are the shorebirds).
Now there are a lot of shorebirds, but this egg is pretty big and it lacks the strongly conical shape you’d expect from a cliff-nester like a Guillemot (the shape means it rolls in tight circle, making it less likely to be blown or knocked off a cliff). That actually narrows it down to a handful of birds that makes comparison easier. Curlew eggs, for example, are a similar size, but they tend to be more grey and have larger blotches, plus they’re a bit less elongated.
This particular egg has the shape and colour of a gull egg and large size means it’s almost certainly the egg of a Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Linnaeus, 1758.
I would say more, but at the moment I’m at the natural history highlight of the year – the NatSCA conference. Here’s the Twitter feed in case you’re interested in the discussion:
I was wondering if the color was true or changed by the photo. Do they blow the eggs in exhibits, or do they coat them with something and keep them intact, I wonder?
From the appearance of the base of the egg I would venture: blown.
Thanks for this, Paolo. Alas I have been laid up with some sort of lurgy all week so unable to participate even in my regular cricket discussions, let alone beyond my initial post on this one.
When I did an initial search I came across hens’ eggs that were similarly speckled, which undermined any confidence I might have had in further diagnostics… Apologies again for my lassitude and pusillanimity.