Precious and rare eggs – bird photography

Hollowed out and painted birds eggs were the first Easter eggs and, in Christian tradition, they symbolise new life.

Te Papa’s photography collection holds a large number of prints and negatives taken by naturalists and bird watchers with an enviable amount of enthusiasm and perseverance. These images show a variety of different eggs – and places birds choose to build their nests and lay and hatch their eggs.

In some cases the choice of spot is troubling. Can the white tern have really expected to hatch an egg in this spot? Or has the egg fallen from a nest higher up in the tree? Or perhaps it was placed there from somewhere else by the photographer?

White tern’s egg on branch, 1920s?, Kermadec Islands. Bell, Roy Sunday. Gift of Steven Corin, 2009. Te Papa

White tern’s egg on branch, 1920s?, Kermadec Islands. Roy Bell. Gift of Steven Corin, 2009. Te Papa

In fact this is actually where Roy Bell found this particular egg on Raoul Island and this is the kind of place white terns choose for their eggs. Once hatched the young cling to the tree with their claws.

Other photographs show meticulously crafted nests, full of eggs, protectively nestled in grass or ferns or under logs. Despite their careful positioning, it’s hard to not feel the vulnerability of these nests to ground based predators or a careless foot step.

Pukeko eggs, circa 1910, Hawke's Bay. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

Pukeko eggs, circa 1910, Hawke's Bay. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

Grey Duck eggs, circa 1910, Hawke's Bay. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

Grey Duck eggs, circa 1910, Hawke's Bay. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

South Island Saddleback eggs, 1911, Stewart Island. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

South Island Saddleback eggs, 1911, Stewart Island. Herbert Guthrie-Smith. Te Papa

All good reason to choose chocolate eggs!

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