8 Bird Species That Don't Make Nests 

Female Emperor Penguins lay eggs directly on the ice, which the male then incubates on his feet within his abdominal pocket for months until hatching.

Emperor Penguin

Chuck-will’s-widows lay eggs directly on leaves, pine needles, or dirt in dense, forested areas and camouflage by incubating their broods on the ground.


Common Murres lay eggs on cliff sides within densely packed colonies, with pointed eggs that don't roll off, and parents constantly guard the eggs from predators.

Common Murre

White Terns lay eggs in tree nooks and crevices without nests, reducing parasite attraction and benefiting from natural protection.

White Tern

Common Potoos lay eggs on broken tree branches and incubate them without nests to enhance camouflage and avoid predator attention.

Common Potoo

Cowbirds are brood parasites, laying eggs in other birds' nests, leaving them for other parents to raise, and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Cuckoo Finches, also brood parasites, target Tawny-flanked Prinia nests, but prinias have developed defenses like pecking cuckoo eggs to death.

Cuckoo Finch

Common Cuckoos lay eggs in various birds' nests, with aggressive young that push out or kill host eggs and chicks, convincing host parents to feed them.

Common Cuckoo