Colorful bird eggs as a wonder of nature


    Walsrode – Halle. They come in so many shades of color and patterns that hardly anyone can imagine when brushing Easter eggs. There are thousands of different bird eggs in natural science collections, one of the most important in the world is in Halle in Saxony-Anhalt. But visitors can also marvel at eggs in the Walsrode World Bird Park – at the moment, however, the park is closed due to the corona crisis. What is this variety of colors and shapes all about? Questions and answers about a colorful wonder of nature:

    How many different bird eggs are there?

    There are around 12,000 different bird species worldwide, and around 8,000 species are known to have nests and eggs. For example, birds from the tropical rainforest that breed in the top treetops have no chance of finding a nest with eggs, says Frank Steinheimer, collection manager at the University of Halle / Saale, which is home to one of the world’s most important bird egg collections. Around 4,000 birds of around 650 species live in the park in Walsrode. Eggs of pelicans, Humboldt penguins, yellow-breasted fruit pigeons, and crested tinamous are also artificially hatched. The eggs of the latter shine bright green.

    Why do eggs look so different – from white to blue and green to black, from speckled to shiny?

    In cold regions, dark eggs are laid, which are also heated by the sun. In hot zones, however, the eggs are light so that they do not become too hot and denature. Particularly intense shades of green or blue signal to the male that a fit female has laid the eggs and that it is worth investing in the brood, as Steinheimer explains. The eggs of the coconuts in South America shine like varnished – probably to irritate predators. Shades of color and speckles are often used for camouflage: This is what the ringed plover’s eggs look like pebbles. With gulls or terns, there are even individual drawings to find your own egg in a large breeding colony.

    What is the largest and what is the smallest egg?

    The smallest egg comes from a 1.6-gram hummingbird, the extremely rare bee elf in Cuba. The egg is about as tall as a pea, but not as thick, says ornithologist Steinheimer: “It is crazy that it becomes a vertebrate with a heartbeat!” Stefanie Alonso Malo from the bird park says: “We always compare our hummingbird eggs with Tic Tacs, so these mini-lollipops. ”The largest egg ever was the egg of the Madagascar ostrich, which was eradicated in the 17th century and was around 3.50 meters high. With a clutch, you could feed an entire village for several weeks. Of the common birds in Germany, the golden-crested chicken lays the smallest, the mute swan the largest. However, the swan gets competition from the South American Nandu, which has settled in northeastern Germany.

    Owls lay round eggs – but why?

    A round egg is more stable but rolls away much more easily than an oval or elliptical egg. That is why many of the eggs lying on rocky outcrops are elliptical in shape. Owls, on the other hand, breed in a tree hole, where the eggs cannot roll away. Generally, migratory bird eggs are often longer because a bird that flies a lot does not have as much space in the tank. This does not matter for large, flightless birds since the eggs can be round.

    Can bird eggs be collected in nature?

    According to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, collecting eggs in the wild is prohibited. The Halle collection sometimes receives eggs confiscated by the police. “It is rightly forbidden because almost every species of bird in the open field is now threatened, for example, the skylark,” says Steinheimer: “But this is not because of the egg collectors, but primarily because of the excessive use of insecticide and over-fertilization. ” (TEH)