Photo (9): Black-billed Magpie

Pica Hudsonia, BBMA

Size and Shape

L: 19” (with tail, probably 8-10” without, WS: 25”  Maybe about the same body size as a crow.  Tail is about half its length.  Beak about length of head, and twice as thick as eye.

Colour Pattern

White scapulars (shoulders/”backpack straps”) and belly, black upper body, including head.  Irridescent blue-green tail and wing coverts.  Wing secondaries black, primaries white with black tips.


Feeds on seeds and animal prey (insects?) mostly on the ground.  Flies level, with relatively steady,but quick rowing wingbeats.  Often flies high for long distances.  Sits about 45 degrees, and looks around constantly.  Duck waddles or hops.  Hang out and move in groups.

If a magpie finds a dead magpie, it’ll call loudly and attract others who swarm around for about 15 mins.  This is often referred to as “the funeral”.


Like open woodland (meadow, grassland, sagebrush plain), and nest in trees.  Like open areas, but stay close to cover to protect themselves from raptors.  Don’t mind human development too much.  Eat a variety of things including other birds’ eggs and ticks off the back of moose.  Often perch on top of things: trees, posts.