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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 15:28 EDT

Yellow-billed Magpie

The Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli) is a large bird in the crow family that is found only in California. It inhabits the Central Valley and the adjacent chaparral foothills and mountains. Apart from its having a yellow bill and a yellow streak around the eye, it is virtually identical to the Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) which is found throughout North America. Genetic testing indicates a closer relationship between these two, than to the outwardly very similar Eurasian European Magpie (P. pica); the two American forms may actually be one species.

The Chinese form of the European Magpie is more distantly related to all other (including North American) forms, and thus, either the North American forms are maintained as specifically distinct and the Korean (and possibly related) subspecies (P. p. sericea) are also elevated to species status, or all magpies are considered to be subspecies of a single species, Pica pica.

The Yellow-billed Magpie prefers groves of tall trees along rivers and near open areas, though in some cities they have begun to nest in vacant lots and other weedy places. Dome-shaped nests are built with sticks and mud on a high branch. They nest in small colonies. These birds are permanent residents and do not usually wander far outside of their breeding range.

These birds forage on the ground for insects, especially grasshoppers, but also carrion, acorns and fruit in fall and winter.

Yellow-billed Magpie