Black-billed Magpie - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Black-billed Magpie - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Black-billed Magpie - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Black-billed Magpie - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image  
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Black-billed Magpie
Pica hudsonia

Jays and Crows
Corvid Family (Corvidae)

Size: Length: 45.5-56 cm Wingspan: 61 cm

Description: As a naturalist, the black-billed magpie is usually the first bird I get asked about. It's very long tail and iridescent colours make it stand out from the crowd. Look for a large jay with a dark hood and slightly down-curved black beak. The head, nape, back and breast are all black. The belly and shoulder are white, and the secondary feathers and tail are an iridescent greenish-blue (sometimes appearing almost purple). The primary feathers are white with black tips.

Similar Species: Nothing resembles the magpie.

Range: They are a western bird, found throughout southern Alberta and west to the Coast. They are common throughout the Canadian and American Rockies. They do not migrate.

Habitat: They are an adaptable bird, often living in open thickets, often in close proximity to humans. They do well in arid locations, coulees and riverside groves.

Diet: Like most jays, they have diverse tastes. They will eat insects, eggs, nestlings, small mammals, carrion as well as seeds and other plant material.. They also follow elk and deer around to pick ticks off their bodies.

Nesting: The nest of the magpie is as unique in appearance as the magpie itself. They build a bulky nest of grasses, twigs, thorny branches, and hair. The nest has a roof, with an opening in the side. The nest is usually not very high, rarely above 7.5 m (25 ft), and is usually in a tall shrub. Very social, there may be many pairs nesting in close proximity.

Nest building is shared by both adults, with the male supplying materials and the female taking charge of construction. They lay 5-9 (rarely up to 12) olive-brown blotchy eggs between March in the south and May in the northern part of their range. Incubation is by the female, with hatching taking place after 17-18 days. The nestlings are altricial, and must be cared for by the adults until they fledge between 22 and 28 days.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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