Living Bird Magazine
Black-billed MagpiePica hudsonia
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
Black-billed Magpies are familiar and entertaining birds of western North America. They sit on fenceposts and road signs or flap across rangelands, their white wing patches flashing and their very long tails trailing behind them. This large, flashy relative of jays and crows is a social creature, gathering in numbers to feed at carrion. They’re also vocal birds and keep up a regular stream of raucous or querulous calls.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Black-billed Magpies are noisy, and they have a habit of sitting very conspicuously at the tops of trees or fenceposts, so they can be easy to hear and see. In flight their trailing tail feathers and bright, flashy white wing patches make them unmistakable. Keep an eye in the air for their graceful, gliding flights across open, brushy areas.
- Urraca de Hudson (Spanish)
- Pie d'Amérique (French)
In their range, Black-billed Magpies occasionally visit platform bird feeders and suet feeders. They are fairly common in small towns and may visit large yards. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The Black-billed Magpie makes a very large nest that can take up to 40 days to construct. It's a lot of work, but a study found that it only used about 1% of the daily energy expenditure of the pair. Laying eggs, on the other hand, takes 23% of the female's daily energy budget.
- Historical records of the American West indicate that Black-billed Magpies have been associates of people for a long time. Magpies frequently followed hunting parties of Plains Indians and fed on leftovers from bison kills. On their expedition, Lewis and Clark reported magpies boldly entering their tents to steal food.
- Like most members of the jay family, the Black-billed Magpie is a nest predator, although eggs and nestlings make up only a tiny portion of the bird’s overall diet.
- The Black-billed Magpie frequently picks ticks from the backs of large mammals, such as deer and moose. The magpie eats the ticks or hides some for later use, as members of the crow and jay family often do with excess food. Most of the ticks, however, are cached alive and unharmed, and may live to reproduce later.
- The longest-living Black-billed Magpie on record was at least 9 years, 4 months old and lived in Idaho.