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Why are bluebird eggs different colors?

Bluebirds are known for laying bright blue eggs. However, while blue is the most common color, bluebird eggs can actually come in a variety of shades and colors. There are a few key reasons why bluebird eggs vary in coloration:


The main factor that determines egg color in bluebirds is genetics. Just like eye or hair color in humans, the pigments that bluebirds produce are controlled by their genetic makeup. There are two main pigments that contribute to bluebird egg color:

  • Biliverdin – A blue-green pigment found in birds. It produces blue and green hues.
  • Protoporphyrin – A reddish-brown pigment. It produces reddish or brownish hues.

The levels of these two pigments present in a bluebird’s shell gland will determine the final color of their eggs. Some bluebirds may genetically produce more biliverdin, resulting in blue-green eggs. Others may produce more protoporphyrin, leading to tan or reddish-brown eggs.


A bluebird’s diet can also impact egg color. Certain foods contain higher levels of pigments that bluebirds can deposit into their eggs. For example:

  • Eating berries high in antioxidants produces more biliverdin for blue-green eggs.
  • Consuming insects with reddish-brown shells adds more protoporphyrin for brownish eggs.

A bluebird with a diet rich in mixed berries and insects will likely lay brighter blue-green eggs than one eating fewer pigment-rich foods.


Younger female bluebirds often lay paler or more whitish eggs. As the birds age and produce more pigments, their eggs tend to become darker and richer in color.

For example, a one-year old bluebird may lay very light blue or greenish-white eggs. By age three, the same bird will likely produce deeper blue or green eggs.

Individual Variation

There is also some individual variation between bluebirds in egg coloring. Even two bluebirds with very similar genetics and diets in the same area may lay slightly different egg shades.

Some females simply seem predisposed to producing certain egg colors, while others lay eggs across a wider color spectrum. There are always exceptions to the general rules.

Geographic Location

Interestingly, the geographic location and habitat where bluebirds live can also impact egg color. Bluebirds in more northern climates tend to lay paler, whiter eggs. Southern populations usually produce darker, richer egg colors.

A few theories may explain this regional variation:

  • Northern birds produce less pigment to allow more light to penetrate eggs for warmth.
  • Southern birds get more pigments from their diet so eggs are darker.
  • Darker eggs camouflage better in more densely vegetated southern habitats.

More research is needed to confirm the reasons behind this geographical difference.

When Bluebirds Lay Different Colored Eggs

While bluebird eggs generally share similar color patterns overall, there are a few scenarios when more significant variation can occur within a nest:

Young Females

As mentioned earlier, younger female bluebirds often lay paler colored eggs. If a one or two-year old bluebird lays some eggs early in the clutch, they may appear whitish or very light blue.

Changes in Diet

If a bluebird’s diet shifts significantly during the egg laying period, it can cause a wider range of egg colors. For example, if she eats lots of reddish bugs initially but switches to eating mostly blueberries later, early eggs may be brownish while later ones turn blue-green.

Two Female Birds

Occasionally two female bluebirds will lay eggs in the same nest. Since the females are different individuals, their egg pigmentation can vary, leading to mixed egg colors in a single clutch.

Parasite Eggs

Brown-headed cowbirds are nest parasites that sometimes lay eggs in a bluebird’s nest. Cowbird eggs are white with brown speckles, so they stand out among the solid bluebird eggs.

Eggs From Previous Seasons

Bluebirds may occasionally lay new eggs on top of old ones from previous breeding attempts. The older ones will look more faded and worn.

Typical Bluebird Egg Color Range

While egg color can be highly variable, most bluebird eggs fall into these general shades:

Egg Color Description
Pale Blue Light sky blue, with a subtle pale greenish tint
Blue-Green Vibrant turquoise blue-green color
Bright Blue Deep cobalt blue, no greenish tint
White Pure white with no color, more common in northern regions
Tan Light brownish-pink tan color
Speckled White eggs with brown spotting, likely brood parasite eggs

However, bluebirds can produce eggs across the full spectrum, from very pale whitish-blue to deep greenish-blue. The variety arises from all the factors that influence shell pigmentation.

Do Blue Egg Colors Impact the Chicks?

Bluebirds eggs can span a wide range of shades while still nurturing healthy chicks inside. The different colors do not seem to affect development:

  • Chicks hatch at similar rates from all bluebird egg colors.
  • Nestling growth and survival are not impacted by egg color.
  • Fledging rates remain high regardless of initial egg shade.

As long as the parents provide adequate warmth and incubation, chicks can thrive inside bluebird eggs of any color. Both bright blue and pale white eggs result in normal bluebird offspring.

Monitoring Bluebird Egg Color

Noticing a wide range of bluebird egg shades is not necessarily a cause for concern. As discussed, many factors can naturally produce variation.

However, significant abnormal changes in an individual bluebird’s eggs from one clutch to the next may require further investigation. For example:

  • A bluebird that usually lays green-blue eggs suddenly lays tan eggs.
  • The eggs in one clutch are varying and mottled colors.
  • Eggs appear more pale or faded than previous clutches.

In these cases, issues like poor nutrition, illness, or parasitic eggs may be impacting the bluebird. Monitoring eggs while being aware of natural color variability is an important part of bluebird nest box stewardship.


Bluebirds are beloved for their striking blue eggs, but the reality is that bluebird egg coloration can vary quite a bit from bird to bird. Differences arise mainly from genetics, diet, age, and geography. While blue is typical, the eggs can range from white to green to tan or reddish-brown. This color diversity occurs naturally but may also indicate issues in a particular bird. With proper monitoring for abnormalities, bluebird enthusiasts can enjoy the rainbow of egg colors from vivid cobalt to pale blue-white in their nest boxes.