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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 15:19 EDT

Black-billed Magpie

The Black-billed Magpie is a large bird in the crow family that occurs in the western half of North America from Alaska to Oklahoma. Externally, it is almost identical with European Magpie (Pica pica) and is often considered specific. However, the American Ornithologists’ Union splits it as a separate species (Pica hudsonia) on the grounds that it is genetically closer to California’s Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli) than to the European Magpie.

This bird prefers semi-open country with some large bushes or trees. It is a common sight in many towns. It builds a bulky stick nest in a tree or bush. Both parents build the nest and feed the young.

This bird is omnivorous, eating many types of insects, carrion, eggs and rodents, as well as berries, seeds and nuts, and also garbage and food from pets that are fed outside. They forage on the ground, but also may steal food from other birds.

They are mainly permanent residents; some birds may move south or to lower elevations in winter, while others may wander east after the breeding season.

The call of this bird is a nasal inquisitive mag mag mag.

In spite of the best efforts of settlers to eradicate this bird at the beginning of the 20th century, they remain numerous and widespread.

Black-billed Magpie