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Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia


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Black-billed Magpie
credit: Stephen S Skrzydlo/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Corvidae, Crows, Magpies, Jays view all from this family

Description ADULT Has mainly black plumage with contrasting white belly and white patch on the closed wing. At close range, and in good light, a bluish green sheen can be seen on wings and tail. In flight, outer half of the short, rounded wings appears strikingly white. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but has pale (not dark) iris, shorter tail, and duller (not iridescent), browner plumage.

Dimensions Length: 17 1/2 -22" (44-56 cm)

Habitat Widespread and common resident. Favors a range of lightly wooded habitats including farmland and grassland; often in vicinity of water, the common factors being a wide range of potential food sources to suit its omnivorous diet, and dense shrubs and trees for nesting. Also seen in suburban areas. Formerly widely persecuted by shooting, trapping, and poisoning. Now protected in U.S., but not in Canada.

Observation Tips You will have little difficulty finding the species in most lowland areas within its range.

Range Texas, Plains, Great Lakes, Northwest, Alaska, Western Canada, California, Eastern Canada, Rocky Mountains, Southwest

Voice Utters a range of harsh, screeching and chattering calls.

Discussion Striking and unmistakable black and white, long-tailed bird. Outside breeding season, often seen in small flocks and roosts in large groups, sometimes 100s strong. In flight, note the rounded black and white wings and long tail, tapered toward the tip. On the ground, walks with a rolling swagger or moves with long hops. An opportunistic feeder with an omnivorous diet including fruit, insects, animal road kills, and the eggs and young of birds; it will also happily scavenge discarded leftover food scraps in towns. Sometimes picks ticks from the backs of large, grazing animals. Nest is a large, long-lasting structure of twigs, usually built among dense tree branches. Sexes are similar.