Bird eggs come in a tremendous range of sizes and shapes.
The smallest egg, laid by the bumblebee hummingbird, weighs less than 1/5000th of the largest egg laid by a living bird, the ostrich egg.
In general, larger birds lay larger eggs. Larger eggs usually (but not always) have thicker shells so the added weight does not make them break.
But sometimes small birds lay big eggs and big eggs have thin shells, as we will discuss in this list of the 10 birds (11 if you count a tie) that lay the biggest eggs in the world.
10 Birds that Lay the Largest Eggs
While I would later cover the details about each bird in my list (that lays the largest eggs), here is a table to give you the details at a glance.
|Great Elephantbird (now Extinct)
|13-1/2 inches long and 9-1/2 inches wide (342 mm by 241 mm)
|7 inches long by 5-1/2 inches wide (178 mm by 140 mm)
|6 inches long x 3-1/2 inches wide (150 mm by 90 mm)
|5-1/2 inches long and 3-3/4 inches wide (139 mm by 95 mm)
|5-1/8 inches long by 3-1/2 inches wide (130 mm by 90 mm)
|5 inches long by 3-1/8 inches wide (130 mm by 79 mm)
|Southern Brown Kiwi
|4-3/4 inches long by 3-1/8 inches wide (120 mm long by 80 mm wide)
|4 inches long by 2 inches wide (100 mm long by 50 mm wide)
|3-1/4 inches long and 2-1/4 inches wide (83 mm long and 56 mm wide)
|Wild Turkey and Muscovy Duck (tied)
|2-1/2 inches long by 1-7/8 inches wide (62 mm by 47 mm)
10. Wild Turkey and Muscovy Duck (tied)
(Meleagris gallopavo and Cairina moschata)
Wild turkeys are big birds that lay big eggs.
Each female lays a clutch of 10 to 15 cream to tan eggs with red or pink spots that measure 2-1/2 inches long by 1-7/8 inches wide (62 mm by 47 mm).
Wild turkeys lie in a depression in the ground with leaves to make their nests.
Muscovy ducks also lay eggs that measure 2-1/2 inches by 1-7/8 inches (62 mm by 47 mm).
The mother duck lays 8 to 16 eggs in a tree cavity, protecting them from predators on the ground. Muscovy ducks will also take over breeding boxes intended for other birds, although they will leave birdhouses alone.
Both wild turkeys and Muscovy ducks are native to the Americas. They were domesticated by Native Americans. They have become important food birds all over the world.
In the wild, however, both birds display unusual habits of mating, nesting, and raising their young.
Wild turkeys are naturally highly social, banding together for protection from predators.
A female turkey is wooed by not just one bird but a band of brothers that can protect her.
She will only mate with one male, but her chicks’ uncles also take care of them when they are young.
Muscovy ducks build their nests in locations that allow the nesting mother to get away for 20 to 30 minutes a day to eat, drink, bathe, and preen.
Muscovy ducks originated in the warmer areas of the Americas, from south Texas to Uruguay.
Escaped birds have found their way into the wild in colder climates ranging from northern Europe to Tasmania.
9. Canada Goose
Canada Geese live, as you might expect, in Canada. The remarkable thing about these birds is how adaptable they are.
They are equally happy on the Arctic tundra and they are in a public park in southern Canada.
They have begun to establish summer colonies in the United States and Europe, so many that they are no longer a strictly Canadian bird.
Canada Goose eggs are large, but not huge. They average 3-1/4 inches long and 2-1/4 inches wide (83 mm long and 56 mm wide).
Females lay a clutch of three to eight eggs and take sole responsibility for incubating them for 21 to 28 days. The male stays close by to defend his partner and their eggs from predators.
Canada geese are considered a pest around airports. They can interfere with landings and takeoffs.
Some midair collisions of geese planes have caused planes to crash. Some wildlife officers make a habit of looking for Canada goose nests and shaking the eggs so they will not hatch.
8. Wandering Albatross
The wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any living bird, as much as 11 feet 6 inches (3.5 meters).
Circling the ocean around Antarctica, it also has the longest flight range of any living bird, up to 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) a year.
A wandering albatross mates for life. Every two years, the mating couple sets down on a rocky island and attempts to raise a single chick.
The egg measures 4 inches long by 2 inches wide (100 mm long by 50 mm wide), and takes 11 weeks to hatch.
The mated wandering albatrosses take turns sitting on the egg.
They choose remote islands where there are no predators that would attack the chick, but lots of other wandering albatrosses have the same idea.
A suitable nesting ground will attract thousands of these sea birds. Each pair will build a nest of mud and grass just outside of the pecking distance of its neighbors.
The parents will take turns catching fish and squid to feed their baby at irregular intervals during its first year of life.
Wandering albatrosses don’t have appetite control. If they find a school of fish, they will stuff themselves so all they can do is float helplessly on the water until they digest their meal.
Overfeeding and mishaps with fishing nets happen often enough that fewer than one in three chicks survive.
Because wandering albatrosses don’t find a mate and begin to breed until they are 11 to 15 years old, the species is considered to be vulnerable.
7. Southern Brown Kiwi
Southern Brown Kiwis are native to the South Island of New Zealand. They aren’t very big birds.
They grow 18 to 22 inches (45 to 55 cm) long. But the female lays a single, large egg that weighs a little less than half as much as she does.
Sometimes, she can lay a second egg a few weeks later. The egg is white to beige with a bluish tint, and no spots.
Southern Brown Kiwi eggs measure 4-3/4 inches long by 3-1/8 inches wide (120 mm long by 80 mm wide).
A single Southern Brown Kiwi egg is the same size as a half-dozen chicken eggs, but its shell is the same thickness.
This means that Southern Brown Kiwi eggs are very fragile and are often broken.
These birds build their nests in burrows or between the roots of trees for added protection, but a large percentage of chicks still die before they hatch.
The male incubates the egg (or sometimes, two eggs) for 74 to 84 days.
It usually fends off predators successfully, but the chicks are vulnerable to rats and stoats until they reach about 26 ounces (750 grams) of weight.
New Zealand conservation officials stay on the lookout for Southern Brown Kiwi eggs so they can be artificially incubated at one of several hatching centers on the South island.
Maleos live on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. They have some of the most unique nesting habits of any bird anywhere in the world.
Maleos travel long distances on foot, rather than flying, from their highland forest homes to carefully chosen nesting grounds near volcanic hot springs, or on sandy beaches.
The males defend the nesting ground until the female has a chance to lay 8 to 12 eggs.
Each egg has its own long tunnel in loose volcanic grit or soft sand. Then both parents abandon their eggs.
When the chicks hatch two or three months later, they are immediately capable of running, flying, and feeding themselves.
Many Maleos lay their eggs on the same site, so at least some eggs will survive various kinds of predators, including snakes, pigs, and people.
On Sulawesi, Maleo eggs are considered a delicacy.
Each Maleo egg is clear and white, with a pink tint. It measures 5 inches long by 3-1/8 inches wide (130 mm by 79 mm). It is about five times as large as a chicken egg.
5. Greater Rhea
The Greater Rhea is an American cousin of the African ostrich.
It is native to grasslands and pastures of northern Argentina, southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. There are also wild Greater Rheas in Germany.
The eggs of the Greater Rhea are bluish yellow to green, but they appear to fade to a light brown when they are exposed to sunlight.
This makes them harder for predators to see from above. Greater rhea eggs measure 5-1/8 inches long by 3-1/2 inches wide (130 mm by 90 mm).
Greater Rhea males mate with multiple Greater Rhea females.
The males “stake out” a single nesting site, but the females will move between several nests until they lay their eggs.
Greater Rheas don’t put a lot of effort into building a nest. Usually, they will just clear the ground with sticks.
Each female lays 5 to 10 eggs, but there may be 25 up to 80 eggs in a single nest. As the chicks inside the eggs develop, they start communicating with each other.
The entire clutch will hatch at the same time, even if they were laid as long as two weeks apart.
4. Southern Cassowary
The Southern Cassowary is the second largest bird surviving in the modern world.
It is found in Papua New Guinea and the northern tip of Queensland in Australia, and also on a few nearby Indonesian islands.
Southern Cassowary eggs are pale green. They measure 5-1/2 inches long and 3-3/4 inches wide (139 mm by 95 mm).
Southern Cassowaries lay three to five eggs in a large nest they build on the ground from leaves and twigs. These birds create a mattress of coarse plant matter in the bottom of the nest to drain water from frequent rains.
Southern Cassowaries maintain an unusual division of labor with their young.
The female has the brighter plumage. It defends the nest against other birds. The male, which has dull feathers, has the job of sitting on the eggs for 50 days until they hatch.
The male has sharp inner-toe claws that can injure and kill predators—and people.
Emus are native to Australia. At one time, they ranged over the entire continent.
Emu eggs look a lot like avocados. They are dark green, and they have a rough exterior.
Emu eggs measure 6 inches long x 3-1/2 inches wide (150 mm by 90 mm). That’s about 10 to 12 times as big as a chicken egg. They are eaten by both predators and people.
Emus have a very strict division of labor for taking care of their eggs. Females may mate with several males. A single clutch may have multiple fathers.
Once the female has laid her 11 to 20 eggs, she is free to roam. One of her male partners then takes over incubating the eggs.
The male sits on them nearly 24 hours a day. The only reason the male gets up is to turn the eggs so they are evenly warm.
The male does not eat or drink until the eggs hatch. He may lose 20 percent of his body weight during the 56 days he is sitting on the nest.
While all emu eggs are large, there is considerable variation in size due to differences in water content.
When the emus live in an area with abundant water supplies, their eggs may weigh as much as 700 grams (over a pound and a half).
When they lay their eggs in unusually dry lands or during a drought, the eggs may weigh as little as 400 grams (less than a pound).
Larger eggs hatch larger chicks that have better chances of survival during their first few days of life.
The Ostrich is the world’s largest living bird. Among all the world’s birds, it lays the largest egg.
An Ostrich egg measures 7 inches long by 5-1/2 inches wide (178 mm by 140 mm), and there may be as many as 20 Ostrich eggs in a single nest.
Ostrich eggs are off-white to cream-colored. They don’t have spots. Their glossy sheen shields the developing embryo from ultraviolet radiation when the egg is exposed to sunlight.
Ostriches have an unusual division of labor for taking care of their eggs. The male incubates the eggs at night.
The color patterns of its feathers provide good camouflage in low-light conditions.
The female incubates the eggs during the day. Her brownish-gray feathers make her less obvious against a background of dry grass.
Female Ostriches lay 10 to 12 eggs, but they share nests with other females.
As the eggs are about ready to hatch, the dominant female may push a few of the other female’s eggs to the side of the nest, where they receive less protection.
There may be as many as 30 eggs laid in the nest, but only about 20 will be allowed to hatch.
1. Great Elephantbird (now Extinct)
Elephantbirds were members of an ancient order of birds known as ratites, which included emus, ostriches, kiwis, and rheas.
These now-extinct birds were the heaviest and tallest birds known to walk the Earth in recent history.
Only one now-extinct emu in Australia approached their enormous size. In 2018, scientists confirmed that one elephantbird in Madagascar stood 9 feet 10 inches (3 meters) tall and weighed 1,600 pounds (730 kilos).
Elephantbirds were known to the explorer Marco Polo and were mentioned in the diaries of a French colonial governor of Madagascar in the 1600s. Intact eggshells are still occasionally found.
The Great Elephantbird’s eggs were 13-1/2 inches long and 9-1/2 inches wide (342 mm by 241 mm).
Their volume was about the same as 100 to 150 chicken eggs. The rare intact specimens are off-white to peach in color.
Scientists don’t know very much about elephantbird nesting habits, except that they built their nests near water and fruit trees.
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