13 Examples Of Ground Nesting Birds (With Pictures)

Individual bird nests are just as varied as the birds that made them. They may be meticulously constructed, like a piece of exquisite jewelry (you, hummingbirds and orioles). When you wake up late for work, they might be huge and ponderous, perfectly disguised, or as disheveled as your hair. We’ll be talking about ground nesting birds and how they lay their eggs in this article.

Nest designs within this category are diverse, as are ground nests. There are many types of nests. Others are well-known cup nests, while others were built on a gravel road. Others are just dirt scraped out into patches. For different species with diverse demands, there are many forms.

That’s correct. One specific type of bird, such as a flightless species, does not build these types of nests.

That is, while it would be a reasonable assumption.

It doesn’t mean that a nest on the ground is created by a flightless species.


A strong case, yet there are no trees around to fly into even if a bird can fly. Even if there were (particularly if the food they eat is on the ground), it certainly does not imply that they would want to.

Now, instead of just the 60 or so species that can’t take off, if we consider all of the reasons a bird might nest on the ground, not just flightlessness, it adds hundreds of new species.

For sanity’s sake, this article will be split into species groupings, with a few specimens from each group highlighted, to accommodate the enormous number of birds.

This article will be useful in narrowing down on what group it might belong to and which sub-group within the main group it may belong to if you come across a probable ground nest.


Examples of shorebirds that nest on the ground

  • Avocets
  • Oystercatchers
  • Plovers
  • Sandpipers
  • Stilts

Shorebirds are an excellent illustration of birds that must nest on the ground because their habitat isn’t bursting with trees. This group is characterized by its habitat, which is essentially open space with minimal canopy coverage, despite the fact that not all of them are necessarily living on “shores.”


Scrapes are generally lightly lined with grass, feathers, pebbles, or other tiny objects and are built by these birds. On an island or a dike, they construct their nests. The eggs of these birds are at risk of overheating because they nest in areas with no shady vegetation. During incubation, they cut the eggs off by dousing their bellies in water and cooling them down.


These birds are frequently seen nesting in gravel well away from any natural bodies of water, despite being technically classified as shorebirds. Yet, they are not opposed to removing land from a field or pasture (livestock owners will frequently do this).

When selecting a nest location, the mating pair performs a scrape ritual, and frequently mate soon after. These guys prefer to build nests in gravel or mix it with their scrape, as previously indicated. Light-colored rocks are preferred over dark ones for their nests, according to a research.

At my work, I observe Killdeer galloping around a large gravel parking lot. You can be sure that if you get too close to a nest, there will be a mother or father somewhere nearby to let you know. They lay their eggs practically right out in the open. They’ll also chase you away on many occasions. It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me.


Examples of wading birds that nest on the ground

  • Flamingos
  • Rails
  • Cranes

Ponds, rivers, bogs, mud flatts, marshes, and flooded areas are where these ground nesting birds spend their time. The majority of species prefer damp environments with ponds or lakes. Without some shallows to get through, they wouldn’t really be “wading” birds.


A bowl-like nest made of marsh grasses, such as sedges, cattails, and tiny grasses, is woven by this wading bird. They may be discovered among the lower branches of needlerush or bulrush. Water can reach up to an inch deep on the surface here, which is usually quite wet.


Little bogs, marshes, wet meadows, and other damp, solitary environments, particularly those with stagnant water, are home to nests constructed by this species. Marsh grasses, cattails, sedges, burr reeds, and grass will be used to construct a platform by these long-legged birds. A cup-shaped hollow filled with sticks and twigs will be added to the top. They’ll start by building with dried plant materials early in the season and then add greenery as the weather improves.

Examples of waterfowl that nest on the ground

  • Swans
  • Ducks
  • Geese

Waterfowl, like wading birds, spend a lot of time in and near water. Wetlands are extremely important to them for breeding and food across the nation. A healthy wetland is indicated by seeing groups of waterfowl (singular species or mixed) in an area. Nests and tiny minis may be seen swimming or walking around if the season is right. Nests up high aren’t required because the babies are precocial (able to swim and walk within hours of hatching).


As curious youngsters got too close to the nests of these enormous, well-known, and ground nesting birds, they were chased away. Lichens, moss, grass, and other plant materials are used by Canada Geese to make cup nests. These creatures prefer to live near water, where they can keep an eye on their surroundings.


These birds prefer to nest in grasslands and fields with tall grasses or shrubs, unlike a lot of other waterfowl. Females of American Wigeons will dig a hole in the ground, line it with grasses, marsh materials like reeds and cattails, and down feathers.

Examples of game birds that nest on the ground

  • Turkeys
  • Quail
  • Grouse + Ptarmigan
  • Partridge
  • Pheasant
  • Guineafowl

Species that are weak fliers make up game birds. While many of these species appreciate a thick layer of coverage and seclusion, that is not the case with all.


In an area with good visibility of predators, this game bird creates its nest at the base of a tree, rock, or stump. From the ground, they form a basic, hollowed bowl. They’ll pick vegetation from all around the nest and line it with it to construct their nest.


These birds prefer to construct their nests on ground, although they may do so on shrubs, cactus, yucca, or tiny trees if they have enough cover. If they are near a farm, they may nest under agricultural equipment. The nest is built to be broad and shallow, and is made of leaves and grass.


  • Wood Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Meadowlarks
  • Bobolink
  • Emberizine Sparrows
  • Warblers
  • Wilson’s
  • Orange-crowned
  • Ovenbird
  • Larks


The nest of this little warbler is hidden among the leaves. Rock splits, moss, and fern fronds are all places to look for them. Their nests are made of woven layers of leaves, twigs, bark, stems, moss, or wool with a leafy base. Fine grasses and animal hairs from tiny or massive animals, such as horses, will be used to line the interior.


The nest of this spotted songbird may be built out of tiny trees or shrubs, or berry and fern thickets, and she prefers to camouflage it. The nest will be made of lichen and mud on the exterior and constructed of pine needles and tiny pieces of wood. She’ll use more delicate plant components and willow catkins for the lining.


  • Nightjars
  • Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
  • Pelicans, boobies
  • Loons
  • Burrowing Owls


The simplicity of this nightjar is taken to a new level. Their nests are nothing more than a little scrape in the earth. There is no need to plant materials, arrange rocks or mud, or do any other kind of crafting. Whether it’s sand, stone, or leaf litter on the ground, they’ll just lay their eggs right there. The Whip-poor-will is a declining population species that may be found mostly in the eastern part of the nation. Their summer tunes are particularly well-known, and they sound like whip-poor-will.


These youngsters will choose locations with dispersed vegetation to provide cover for their chicks. They’ll build nests on sand, gravel, and shells very near to the water in colonies. Dead vegetation washed ashore, shells, stones, and bone splinters will be added to the scrape on the ground. Unfortunately, their nests have been discovered to be made of plastic. The parents will add more plant or bone fragments to the nest to raise it when the waters threaten to get too high and flood it.


The only raptors that nest in the ground and actually dig a hole in the earth are the Burrowing Owl, which is one of just a few species of raptors. The term “Burrowing Owl” comes from this. When building their nest beneath the ground, these birds have the potential to excavate a lot, but they will usually take over an abandoned prairie dog or other animal burrow. That saves them a lot of effort.

The western part of the United States is home to the most Burrowing Owls, while Florida has a small breeding population of these birds.


These ground nesting birds don’t have nests in trees, which makes it easy to assume they are the norm. As you can see, the range of species that lay eggs on the ground is considerable, and if we consider even a fraction of the species that nest on the ground, there is even more variety!

Watch where you’re going, especially if it’s uneven.

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