Identification and Pictures
Black-billed magpies are large slender black, and white
birds about 18 to 19 1/2 inches, with long wedge shaped tails.
The black wings and tail show iridescent blue-green.
This is especially evident in their tail as they fly.
They have large white patches in the wings. They have
long thick black bills. The sexes look alike. Juveniles
look similar but are duller.
Magpies are known for their tendency to steal
shiny objects and hide them.
Photos by Keith
Lee. The camera I use is the Canon
A recent study at Goethe University in
Frankfurt shows that magpies can recognize themselves. Helmut Prior
place colored dots on the bird's necks. When mirrors were
place in front of them they would try to remove the dots,
indicating they recognized the image in the mirror. This
is the first time this type of intelligenc
has been shown in non-mammals.
Black-billed Magpie Sound
Their voice is a harsh wah-wah-wah, as well as
variety of squawks and chatters. Sound
Magpies are permanent residence in much of the
western U.S., Canada, and Alaska. They like brushy
country, forest edges, stream sides, ranches, and
farmland. They are often seen in flocks. During
winter they will roost in grooves of trees.
Breeding and Nesting
Magpie pairs usually form up while they are in
wintering flocks. During courtship the male chases the
female, displaying his white wing patches. A pair of magpies will stay together
for life. Often they will nest in small colonies.
Both male, and female help build a very large domed canopy of
sticks, and mud. Inside the canopy will be a cup shaped
nest of mud or manure, lined with grass, hair, and other
materials. The nest is built in a tree or bushes, and
will have an entrance on both sides. Females will
incubate 6 to 9 eggs for around 18 days. Their eggs vary
in color from blue-green to cream, and have brownish
blotches. The male will bring her food while she
incubates, and the two of them will take care of the young
birds. In 3 to 4 weeks the young birds will leave the
nest, and join with other broods. The parents will feed
their own fledging for another 3 to 4 weeks.
Black-billed magpies eat mostly insects, but
they are opportunists, and omnivorous. They also eat
berries, nuts seeds, bird eggs, small rodents, and carrion.
They forage mainly on the ground searching for food by using their bill to flip over debris.
They will follow predators to clean up after a kill.
Magpies are known for preying on the nests of other
birds. They are often seen on the backs of large animals
such as cattle, where they eat large quantities of ticks.
To learn about other favorite
birds click here.