There is increasing interest in noninvasive DNA sampling techniques. In birds, there are several methods proposed for sampling DNA, and of these, the use of eggshell swabbing is potentially applicable to a wide range of species. We estimated the effectiveness of this method in the wild by sampling the eggs of 23 bird species. Sampling of eggs was performed twice per nest, soon after the clutch was laid and again at the end of egg incubation. We genotyped DNA samples using a set of five conserved microsatellite markers, which included a Z-linked locus and a sex-typing marker. We successfully collected avian DNA from the eggs of all species tested and from 88.48% of the samples. In most of the cases, the DNA concentration was low (ca. 10 ng/μL). The number of microsatellite loci amplified per sample (0–5) was used as a measure of the genotyping success of the sample. On average, we genotyped 3.01 ± 0.12 loci per sample (mean ± SE), and time of sampling did not seem to have an effect; however, genotyping success differed among species and was greater in those species that used feather material for lining their nest cups. We also checked for the occurrence of possible genotyping errors derived from using samples with very low DNA quantities (i.e. allelic dropout or false alleles) and for DNA contamination from individuals other than the mother, which appeared at a moderate rate (in 44% of the PCR replicates and in 17.36% of samples, respectively). Additionally, we investigated whether the DNA on eggshells corresponded to maternal DNA by comparing the genotypes obtained from the eggshells to those obtained from blood samples of all the nestlings for six nests of magpies. In five of the six magpie nests, we found evidence that the swab genotypes were a mixture of genotypes from both parents and this finding was independent of the time of incubation. Thus, our results broadly confirm that the swabbing of eggshells can be used as a noninvasive method for obtaining DNA and is applicable across a wide range of bird species. Nonetheless, genotyping errors should be properly estimated for each species by using a suite of highly polymorphic loci. These errors may be resolved by sampling only recently laid eggs (to avoid non-maternal DNA contamination) or by performing several PCR replicates per sample (to avoid allelic dropout and false alleles) and/or by increasing the amount of DNA used in the PCR through increasing the volume of the PCR or increasing the concentration of template DNA.