25 Birds that Nest on The Ground (A to Z List +Pictures)

Birds that Nest on The Ground

Examples of birds that nest on the ground include Albatrosses, Auklets, Avocets, Bobolinks, and Boobies.

Birds that choose to nest on the ground instead of in a tree or other elevated location tend to be the more hardy species. This adaptability often gives them an edge when it comes to survival.

While being ground nesters, they often find quiet locations like cliff’s edges or secluded locations to nest in peace.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the most common birds that nest on the ground and their unique features.

Examples of Birds that Nest on The Ground

1. Albatrosses

Scientific NameDiomedeidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeacross the Southern Ocean

One of the first birds that come to mind when thinking about ground-nesting species is albatrosses. These graceful seabirds are common throughout the world and can be found in a variety of habitats, including both coastal and open ocean areas. Albatrosses are known for their large wingspans, which often reach over 3 meters (10 feet). This adaptation helps them to glide effortlessly over long distances, making them excellent long-distance travelers.

2. Auklets

Scientific NameAethia cristatella
Type of AnimalBird
RangeBaja California

Auklets are small, alcid birds found in the North Pacific. They are sexually dimorphic, with males being larger than females. Auklets have a black head and back, with a white belly. Their wings are short and stubby, and they have a long, thin bill. Auklets nest in colonies on the ground, with each bird taking turns to guard the nest.

3. Avocets

Scientific NameRecurvirostra
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNew Mexico

These elegant birds are known for their unique stance, which involves standing on one leg and keeping the other in a vertical position. They can often be seen wading through shallow water where they search for food. According to recent research, the specific shape of their bill enables them to catch tiny aquatic organisms such as crustaceans and insects.

4. Bobolinks

Scientific NameDolichonyx oryzivorus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthwestern Brazil

Bobolinks are ground-dwelling songbirds that have a distinctive call. They are often found in meadows and fields where they sing their songs for all to hear. The nests of Bobolinks are usually made with grasses, roots, and stems, as well as other materials that can be easily acquired on the ground. These birds often lay their eggs in May or June and will have up to six chicks per clutch.

5. Boobies

Scientific NameSula
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeeastern Pacific Ocean

These marine birds have the ability to dive into bodies of water and catch large fish with their feet. They are often found in tropical regions where sea levels are high, such as the Galapagos Islands. This particular species that nests on the ground are well-adapted for living a nomadic lifestyle.

6. Ducks

Scientific NameAnatidae
Type of AnimalBird

Ducks tend to nest on the ground in a large, shallow depression that is lined with grasses and other materials. This type of nest is called a “nest scrape” and these birds will often reuse the same nest year after year. The species most commonly found nesting on the ground are mallards, pintail ducks, ruddy ducks and teal ducks.

Related Article: What Eats Ducks?

7. Emus

Scientific NameDromaius novaehollandiae
Type of AnimalBird

The emu is a large flightless bird that thrives in the Australian outback. They are notable for their brown feathers and long necks, as well as the two prominent red wattles hanging from either side of their head. Adult male emus can weigh more than 130 pounds and measure up to 6 feet tall. 

Related Article: Do Emus Have Long Neck?

8. Flamingos

Scientific NamePhoenicopterus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAfrica, Asia, and Europe

Flamingos are one of the most well-known birds that nest on the ground. These tall, pink birds are often seen wading in shallow water with their long necks and legs extended. Their diet consists mostly of shrimp and other small aquatic creatures.

Flamingos build their nests out of mud and sticks which they collect with their beaks. The nest is then usually lined with feathers and down. Flamingos generally lay two eggs which are incubated by both parents for about a month.

9. Frigatebirds

Scientific NameFregatidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangetropical and subtropical waters

Frigatebirds are a type of seabird that is known for their long, hooked beaks and long wings. They are excellent swimmers and can often be seen chasing after fish in the water. Frigatebirds nest on the ground, usually on an island or in a coastal area.

10. Geese

Scientific NameAnser
Type of AnimalBird

These large waterfowls are among the most common ground-nesting birds. They often choose to nest in marshes, wet meadows, and other places that offer easy access to food. Their young are able to feed themselves soon after hatching, which makes them strong early on.

11. Grouse

Scientific NameTetraonini
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America

Grouse are a group of ground-nesting birds that are well known for their distinctive appearance and behaviors. There are over 10 different species of grouse, all of which have stocky bodies, feathered legs, and rounded tails. They can be found in habitats ranging from high alpine regions to open grasslands and forests.

12. Guineafowl

Scientific NameNumididae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesub-Saharan Africa

Guineafowl is an ancient group of birds that originated in Africa. They are commonly found across the continent and even extend into parts of Europe. These all-ground nesters lay large clutches, usually consisting of a dozen or more eggs each time. Guineafowl chicks can fly within a few weeks after hatching, but many will stay with their parents until the next breeding season.

13. Killdeer

Scientific NameCharadrius vociferus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeMexico and Central America

The killdeer is a member of the plover family and is one of the most common ground-nesting birds in North America. Their name comes from their distinctive cry which sounds like “kill-deer”. These birds are very adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats including wetlands, grasslands, and even urban areas.

14. Larks

Scientific NameAlaudidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America

The lark is a small bird that is often found in open fields and grasslands. These birds are well known for their distinctive song, which is often used as a symbol of happiness and joy. Larks typically build their nests on the ground, using grasses and other plant materials to construct a simple cup-shaped structure.

15. Ostriches

Scientific NameStruthio
Type of AnimalBird

The largest and most distinctive birds on the planet, ostriches are well adapted to life on the ground. They roam through open grassland, savannahs, and scrublands in search of food. Their long, powerful legs allow them to outrun even the fastest of predators with ease.

Despite their size, they do not burrow or build nests, but lay their eggs in a shallow hole that they scratch out with their feet. Ostriches have also earned a reputation as being very aggressive birds, and are known to kick or peck any creature that comes too close.

Related Article: Are Ostriches Herbivorous?

16. Penguins

Scientific NameSpheniscidae
Type of AnimalBird

Penguins are well-known birds that nest on the ground, mostly because of their strange resemblance to other flightless birds. They have unique features such as being able to swim and dive efficiently with their webbed feet. Their black and white coloration is also known to provide camouflage while they hunt in open waters.

Related Article: Do Penguins Eat Rocks?

17. Pheasants

Scientific NamePhasianus colchicus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeany semi-open habitat

Pheasants are a common ground-nesting bird, but they are not actually native to the United States. These birds were originally imported from Europe and Asia as game birds for hunters.

In recent years, pheasants have faced an increased threat due to habitat loss and human encroachment into their territory.

18. Quail

Scientific NameCoturnix coturnix
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America

Quail is one of the most well-known ground-nesting birds, due to their distinctive appearance and prominent calls. They typically nest in low grasslands or other open habitats, often using shallow scrapes on the ground instead of traditional nests. These adaptable birds are able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, making them one of the hardiest ground-nesting bird species.

19. Rails

Scientific NameRallidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeCanada and the United States

Rails are a common type of ground-nesting bird that can be found in many different habitats worldwide. These long, slender birds have long legs and necks, and typically build their nests on or near the ground. They are known for their secretive behavior, and often breed in marshes and other wet environments where they can hide from predators. Rails are also excellent swimmers and use their long toes to help them navigate through water.

20. Razorbills

Scientific NameAlca torda
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth Atlantic

The razorbill is a medium-sized seabird found along the coastlines of the northern Atlantic Ocean. These birds are well adapted to life on the ground, with short legs that allow them to move easily on land and dense plumage that protects them from harsh weather conditions.

21. Rheas

Scientific NameRhea
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesoutheastern South America

These flightless birds native to South America are within the genus Rhea and the family Rheidae. They have long, sturdy legs and large wings that, when fully extended in flight, are over six feet wide. Most of the time they run rather than fly as they use their powerful legs to propel themselves across open grasslands. Because they do not nest in trees, they build nests low to the ground on the grass.

22. Sandhill Crane

Scientific NameGrus canadensis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America

The sandhill crane is a large bird that can be found in North America. These birds are gray with long necks and legs. They can grow to be over four feet tall. Sandhill cranes build their nests on the ground, usually near water. They lay two to three eggs per clutch.

23. Sandpipers

Scientific NameScolopacidae
Type of AnimalBird

Sandpipers are a species of shorebirds that prefer to nest on the ground. They tend to be more active during the day and can often be seen foraging near water or wetland areas. With this behavior, they have become a favorite for birdwatchers around the world. Their brown or gray plumage makes them difficult to spot among the vegetation, but their long, slender bills are a distinctive feature.

24. Swans

Scientific NameCygnus
Type of AnimalBird

The swan is a large bird that is found in various parts of the world. They are known for their long necks and pure white plumage. Swans typically build their nests on the ground near water sources such as lakes or rivers.

25. Turkeys

Scientific NameMeleagris
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America

The wild turkey is the largest North American game bird. Males, or toms, can reach a weight of almost 20 pounds, while females, or hens, are usually half that size. Turkeys are dark brown with red and blue on their wings.

The male also has a bare head and neck that can range in color from red to blue. They are typically found in open forests and scrublands, as well as farmlands, pastures, and grasslands. Turkeys roost in trees at night and lay their eggs on the ground under a shrub or low-lying bush.

Related Article: 10 Foods Not to Feed Turkeys


Ground nesting birds are well-adapted to their environment and can be found in a variety of habitats. These birds have unique characteristics that help them survive and thrive in their natural surroundings.

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