When do sea turtles lay their eggs?

On our beaches, sea turtles usually nest from May through September.  They almost always dig their nests at night because it is cool, quiet and there are fewer predators around to disturb them.

How do sea turtles make a nest?

The female turtle crawls out of the water onto the beach in search of a dry place near the dunes to dig a nest where her eggs will not be get too wet from the tide. She uses her front flippers to dig an initial body pit, then moves forward in to the body pit and digs an egg chamber using only her rear flippers.  After she lays about 100 eggs, she uses her rear flippers to delicately cover the egg chamber and pat down the sand.  Finally, she camoflauges the nest by throwing a mound of fresh sand over it to hide the nest from predators. The process can take up to 2 hours and then the female returns to the ocean only to emerge again to make 3-5 more nests in the following weeks.

What do the eggs look like?

Loggerhead and green turtle eggs look very much like ping pong balls!  Leatherback turtle eggs are also round but much larger and look like billiard balls. All sea turtle eggs are soft and leathery which allows them to drop into the egg chamber without breaking.

How long are the eggs in the nest before they hatch?

Depending on the temperature of the sand, it usually takes between 45 and 70 days before a nest is ready to hatch. However, leatherback nests take longer; between 60 and 80 days. Warmer nests incubate faster than cooler nests and rain, shade, plants, and tidal overwash all affect the temperature of each nest differently.

When do the hatchlings come out of the nest?

Baby sea turtles are called hatchlings. After they come out of their egg shells, they spend another 3-5 days in the nest while they absorb their yolk sac. The yolk sac is attached to their underside and provides the energy they need to swim a long distance offshore to find food. All of the hatchlings work together to escape the nest by climbing on top of the empty hatched eggshells, scratching at the roof of the nest causing the sand to fall down around them, and lifting them to the surface together. Then they wait just below the surface of the sand until nightfall, when the sand feels cooler, indicating that it is the best time for them all to emerge and make a dash for the ocean.

For more answers to frequently asked questions, please visit Sea Turtle Conservancy FAQ’s.