Black-Billed Magpie – American Magpie – Profile | Facts | Traits

Black-billed Magpie

The Black-billed Magpie is a medium-sized bird with an, especially long tail. It is an extremely distinctive bird with black masking its head and lengthening by way of its breast and down its back.

Black-Billed Magpie profile

It has white on the base of its wings, on its stomach, and on its higher and decreases outer-wings. The remainder of its wings and its long tail are iridescent blue-green. The juvenile is much like the adult, however, has much less iridescence and a shorter tail.

Black-billed Magpies are acquainted and entertaining birds of western North America. They sit on fenceposts and highway indicators or flap throughout rangelands, their white wing patches flashing and their very long tails trailing behind them.

This giant, flashy relative of jays and crows is a social creature, gathering in numbers to feed at carrion. They’re additionally vocal birds and sustain a regular stream of raucous or querulous calls.

Black-Billed Magpie Distribution

The black-billed magpie, scientific name Pica hudsonia, often known as the American magpie, is a bird within the corvidae family that inhabits the western half of North America, from Colorado, to southern coastal Alaska, to Central Oregon, to northern California, northern Nevada, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, central Kansas, and Nebraska.

In Canada, it’s present in far Western Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and Yukon Territory. It is black and white, with black areas on the wings and tail exhibiting iridescent hints of blue or blue-green.

It is one in all solely 4 North American songbirds whose tail makes up half or more of the total body size (the others being the yellow-billed magpie, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, and the fork-tailed flycatcher).


Black-billed Magpies are social, inquisitive birds that eat fruits, grains, bugs, small animals, and steadily collect in giant flocks at carrion.

Magpies transfer in teams and provide quite a lot of trill, cackle, and whistle calls. They flap steadily in flight, alternating deep and shallow wingbeats, and use their very long tails to barter abrupt turns.

Black-billed Magpies are widespread in cities, fields, and stream corridors of the West. They additionally focus on flocks at feedlots and different areas the place meals are simple to search out.

The black-billed magpie is among the few North American birds that construct a domed nest. This nest is made up of twigs and sits close to the top of bushes.

Usually, 6–7 eggs are laid. Incubation, by the feminine solely, begins when the clutch is full and lasts 16–21 days. The nestling interval is 3–four weeks.

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Black-Billed Magpie Description

Black-billed Magpies add a lot to western landscapes, each with their flashy look and with their huge bushel-basket nests in bushes.

In an earlier period, farmers and ranchers tried to exterminate this species, however to no avail, and it is not uncommon right now in the open nations and even in cities within the mountain west.

The black-billed magpie is a mid-sized bird that measures 45–60 centimeters (18–24 in) from tip to tail. Its look is distinguishable from different magpies by its dense plumage, shorter and rounder wings, long tail, and its iridescent blue feathers.

The tail of a black-billed magpie is made up of long, layered feathers, the center pair of which protrudes farthest of all. A black-billed magpie’s beak is rectangular and weakly curved towards the tip.

Unlike different members of the Corvidae family, the black-billed magpie is strongly dimorphic. Males are on average six to 9 p.c bigger and sixteen to twenty-four p.c heavier than females, at 167–216 grams (5.9–7.6 oz), a wingspan of 205–219 millimeters (8.1–8.6 in), and tail lengths of 230–320 millimeters (9.1–12.6 in).

Females weigh between 141–179 grams (5.0–6.3 oz), have wingspans of 175–210 millimeters (6.9–8.3 in), and tail lengths of 232–300 millimeters (9.1–11.8 in).

Black-Billed Magpie Behavior

Like American crows, magpies are inclined to roost communally in winter. Every night they fly, usually in teams and typically over long distances, to achieve secure roosting sites comparable to dense bushes or shrubs that impede predator motion, or, at higher latitudes, dense conifers that afford good wind safety.

In Canada, they arrive on the roosting site earlier within the night and depart later within the morning on colder days. At the roosting site, they have a tendency to occupy bushes singly; they don’t huddle.

They sleep with the bill tucked underneath the scapular (shoulder) and back feathers, adopting this place sooner on colder nights.

During the night they might additionally regurgitate, within the type of pellets, the undigested elements of what they ate in the course of the day.

Such pellets may be discovered on the ground after which used to find out no less than a part of the birds’ diet. A standard false impression about this bird and magpies typically is that they prefer to steal vivid or shiny issues.

However, an experiment carried out at Exeter University appeared to point that the other was true, the birds displaying a lot more warning round flashy and glossy objects.

Black-billed magpies are additionally recognized to make meal caches within the ground, in scatter-hoarding style.

To make a cache, the bird pushes or hammers its bill into the ground (or snow), forming a small gap into which it deposits the meals gadgets it was holding in a small pouch underneath its tongue.

It could, nonetheless, then transfer the meals to a different location, notably if different magpies are within the neighborhood, watching.

Cache robbing is pretty frequent so a magpie usually makes a number of false caches before an actual one.

The ultimate cache is roofed with grass, leaves, or twigs. After this the bird cocks its head and stares at the cache, presumably to commit the site to reminiscence.

Such hoards are short-term; the meals are normally recovered inside a number of days, or the bird by no means returns. The bird relocates its caches by sight and likewise by odor; throughout cache robbing, the odor might be the first cue.


Rangeland, conifers, streamsides, forest edges, farms. Found in lots of sorts of the semi-open nations within the west.

Avoids unbroken forest, and never present in treeless grasslands or excessive desert conditions.

Most frequent in streamside groves of bushes in open terrain, farm nation, and a few suburban areas.


The vocalizations of the black-billed magpie encompass a collection of tough, scratchy calls. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes its call as a ka-ka-ka-ka, usually preceded with a skah-skah.

This call is thus very totally different from that of the Eurasian magpie and is much like these of the yellow-billed magpie. When threatened, the black-billed magpie utters a shrill scream.

They even have a call given within the neighborhood of their useless, inflicting a gathering also known as a funeral.


Black-billed Magpies are barely bigger than jays with for much longer, diamond-shaped tails and heavier payments. In-flight, their wings appear to be too brief to help their swish flight.


These birds are black and white total with blue-green iridescent flashes within the wing and tail. The upperparts are principally black with a white patch within the outer wing and two white stripes (“backpack straps”) on the back.

Where to search out

Black-billed Magpies are noisy, and so they have a behavior of sitting very conspicuously on the tops of bushes or fenceposts, to allow them to be straightforward to listen to and see.

In-flight their trailing tail feathers and vivid, flashy white wing patches make them unmistakable. Keep an eye fixed within the air for his or her swish, gliding flights throughout open, brushy areas.


Omnivorous. Diet is kind of assorted, however feeds on bugs more persistently than most members of the crow family; eats many grasshoppers, caterpillars, flies, beetles, and others.

Also eats carrion, rodents, eggs, and younger of different birds, typically small snakes. Vegetable matter comparable to berries, seeds, and nuts could also be eaten more in winter.

Black-Billed Magpie Feeding Behavior

Forages principally by strolling on the ground; could use the bill to flip over gadgets in quest of meals. Sometimes steals meals from different birds, and supposedly could observe predators at instances to select up scraps that they depart. May take ticks from the backs of elk and different animals.

The black-billed magpie is an opportunistic omnivore, consuming many sorts of bugs, carrion, seeds, rodents, berries, nuts, eggs, and likewise rubbish and meals from pets which are fed exterior.

Chicks are fed animal matter nearly solely. Magpies usually forage on the ground, normally strolling, typically hopping, and typically scratching with their feet to show over ground litter.

They typically land on giant mammals, comparable to moose or cattle, to select on the ticks that always plague these animals. They usually observe giant predators, comparable to wolves, to scavenge or steal from their kills.


6-7, typically 5-9, not often more. Greenish grey, closely noticed with brown. Incubation is by the feminine, 16-21 days, normally about 18.

Male feeds feminine throughout egg-laying and incubation interval. Young: Both parents convey meals to nestlings. Young depart nest about 25-29 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.

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Both parents convey meals to nestlings. Young depart nest about 25-29 days after hatching. 1 brood per year.


Often nests in small unfastened colonies. In courtship, males pursue females, usually flashing their white wing patches. Nest site is among the many branches of a tree or giant shrub (typically deciduous), 5-60′ above the ground, normally 15-30′ up.

The nest is a large construction, a giant globular cover of sticks about 3′ in diameter, with entrance holes on both aspects. Inside the cover is a cup-shaped nest with a base of mud or manure and a lining of weeds, rootlets, grass, and hair. Both sexes assist construct nest.

Black-Billed Magpie Breeding

Black-billed magpies breed for the first time at one or two years of age. The lifespan of the species within the wild is about 4 to 6 years.

The breeding season for magpies is mostly from late March to early July. They nest as soon as a year, however could re-nest if their first try fails early.

The feminine lays as much as 13 eggs, however, the normal clutch size is six or seven. The eggs are greenish-gray, marked with browns, and 33 mm (about 1.3 inches) long. Only the feminine incubates, for 16–21 days.

The male feeds the feminine all through incubation. Hatching is usually asynchronous. Hatched younger are altricial, brooded by the feminine however fed by each sex.

They fly 3–four weeks after hatching, feed with adults for about two months, after which fly off to hitch different juvenile magpies.

Fledging success (normally 3–four younger per nest) is decrease than clutch size; this isn’t an uncommon state of affairs in species with asynchronous hatching, as some nestlings usually die of hunger.

Black-Billed Magpie Facts

The Black-billed Magpie makes a really giant nest that may take as much as 40 days to assemble. It’s plenty of work, however, an examination discovered that it solely used about 1% of each day’s energy expenditure of the pair.

Laying eggs, alternatively, takes 23% of the feminine’s each day energy budget.

Historical data of the American West point out that Black-billed Magpies have been associates of people for a long time.

Magpies steadily adopted searching events of Plains Indians and ate up leftovers from bison kills. On their expedition, Lewis and Clark reported magpies boldly getting into their tents to steal meals.

Like most members of the jay family, the Black-billed Magpie is a nest predator, though eggs and nestlings make up solely a tiny portion of the bird’s total diet.

The Black-billed Magpie steadily picks ticks from the backs of huge mammals, comparable to deer and moose.

The magpie eats the ticks or hides some for later use, as members of the crow and jay family usually do with extra meals. Most of the ticks, nonetheless, are cached alive and unhurt and should reside to breed later.

The longest-living Black-billed Magpie on the report was no less than 9 years, four months old, and lived in Idaho.


In the early part of the 20th century, many had been killed as pests or poisoned by baits set out for predators. In spite of this, stays frequent and widespread.

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