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6 Birds That Lay Eggs in Other Birds’ Nests (Brood Parasites)

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brood parasitism

Birds are well known for laying eggs in nests and then sticking around to take care of those eggs until they hatch. From there, it is all about finding food to bring back and feed the newly hatched babies. However, some types of birds prefer to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests instead of their own. These birds are sometimes referred to as brood parasites because they act like parasites by extracting care for their eggs from other hosts. Here is a list of six types of birds that tend to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. But first, we go over brood parasite birds and their behavior.


eagle divider What Are Brood Parasite Birds, and Why Do They Lay Eggs in Other Birds’ Nests?

Simply put, brood parasites are animals that must rely on others to help raise their young. Not only do birds do this, but certain insects and fish are also known to be brood parasites. How it works is that a bird will work to manipulate another bird into caring for their eggs and the young once the eggs hatch. They do this so they can spend their time foraging and handling other necessary tasks. Unfortunately, this practice puts unnecessary pressure on the host that a brood parasite chooses to raise their young.

Some hosts end up having a hard time foraging for themselves or taking care of their eggs and young. To optimize the chance that a brood parasite bird’s eggs will be taken care of, they typically distribute their eggs to multiple different nests. If one chosen host bird will not take care of an egg or two, chances are that the others chosen as hosts will. Now, let’s check out six types of birds that lay eggs in other birds’ nests!

The 6 Birds That Lay Eggs in Other Birds’ Nests

1. Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird on the ground
Image Credit: Bernell, Pixabay

A type of blackbird, the brown-headed cowbird has a short, stocky body and large round eyes. Female brown-headed cowbirds forgo the task of making nests and instead spend most of their time trying to reproduce. These birds will even go as far as to destroy the bird hosts’ eggs and young to make room for their own. They are commonly found in North America, but most people try to keep them away so they don’t destroy ecosystems on their properties.

2. Honeyguide

Honeyguide perched
Image Credit: Clayton Burne, Shutterstock

The honeyguide is a beautiful little wild bird that seeks out honey as part of their food source. These birds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests like all other brood parasite birds do, but what makes the breed unique is that when baby honeyguides hatch, they immediately utilize their sharp beaks to kill nest-mates. Unfortunately, those nest-mates are the offspring of the owner of the nest. This means the host foster parent loses their babies while being forced to care for the bird that killed them.

3. Common Cuckoo

common cuckoo perched on a tree
Image Credit: da_hammer, Pixabay

Cuckoo birds hail from Europe, where they became famous for their “coo-coo” call. These are the birds that cuckoo clocks are designed after. They lay their eggs in the nests of smaller birds before those birds lay any of their own eggs. This basically forces the chosen host bird to look after the parasite eggs and the babies once they hatch. They usually stick to living in Europe and Asia but have been known to migrate to Alaska as spring leaves and summer starts rolling around.

4. Black-Headed Duck

Black-headed duck in the water
Image Credit: Rob Jansen, Shutterstock

As a native of South America, the black-headed duck has earned the nickname “cuckoo duck” because the females lay eggs in the nests of unsuspecting victims, just like the cuckoo bird does. Due to their brood parasitic nature, these birds do well in the wild and thrive while other bird species around them tend to have a tougher time. These are dark-colored birds with large bills and dark, round eyes.

5. Village Indigobird

Village Indigobird perched
Image Credit: Robert Garner, Shutterstock

The village indigobird is a little songbird with red legs and a bright beak. Males are extremely territorial and will defend the area where they live and forage for food whenever necessary. Females are opportunistic and prefer to eat rather than care for eggs or rear young. Therefore, they spend time looking for nests to lay eggs in so they can go about their business and not have to worry about whether their offspring will make it to fruition.

6. Asian Koel

male asian koel
Image Credit: urvil, Pixabay

The Sian Koel is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they are considered brood parasites. These are long birds with dark and/or spotted feathers and bright-red eyes. They prefer to leave their eggs in nests that crows own, but they will deposit eggs in any nest that is convenient and easy to access. These birds typically live in woodlands and tropical forests throughout Asia, India, and Pakistan.

Related Read: What Birds Lay Blue Eggs and Why Does It Happen?


Brood parasites are interesting animals, but they can also be a strain on a well-balanced ecosystem. That said, if you notice a bird laying eggs in another bird’s nest on your property, it is best to leave it alone and let nature do its thing. Otherwise, you could upset the balance of care for both birds’ eggs.

You might also be interested in: How Long Do Birds Stay in the Nest? When Do Chicks Leave?

Featured Image Credit: Maximillian cabinet, Shutterstock

About the Author Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Since 2000, Rachael has been a freelance writer, and has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens, so it's no surprise that animals happen to be her favorite topic to write about!