Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)

Black-billed Magpie

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Corvidae | [latin] Pica hudsonia | [UK] Black-billed Magpie | [FR] Pie bavarde | [DE] Elster | [ES] Urraca de Pico Negro | [NL] Ekster


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Black-billed Magpie is a black and white bird, with long tail. Adult has black head, chest, back and vent, with iridescent metallic blue-green wings and tail. It has large white patches on scapulars and white markings on primaries visible on extended wings. Belly is pure white. Tail is long, graduated, with a glossy purple band near the tip.
Strong bill is black. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are blacks.
Both sexes are similar in plumage, but male is larger than female.
Juvenile resembles adults with duller plumage, less glossy feathers and shorter tail.
Black-billed Magpies are intelligent and resourceful opportunists. They form large, noisy roosts in winter, sometimes numbering over 700 birds. They flip items over to look for food, follow predators, and sometimes steal food from other birds. They also take ticks from the backs of large mammals, and pick at open sores on those animals’ bodies. They can even use scent to find food–an unusual trait for birds, which generally have very little sense of smell. They are often very bold, but in areas where they have been harassed, they become quite wary.

Listen to the sound of Black-billed Magpie

[audio: Magpie.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 48 cm wingspan max.: 58 cm
size min.: 43 cm size max.: 46 cm
incubation min.: 21 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 24 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 8  


North America : West


Black-billed Magpie lives in farmlands, thickets, open or lightly wooded areas, meadows and mountainsides, parks and gardens, even in town.
GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Black-billed Magpie lives in Eurasia, from Western Europe to Japan, Northern Africa, and temperate regions of North America.


Black-billed Magpies are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds. Pairs first form in the fall or winter within wintering flocks. They often nest in small, loose colonies, but this may be more a factor of the distribution of trees for nesting rather than true colonialism. Both sexes help build a huge nest in the branches of a deciduous tree. The nest is used in succeeding years by many other species, e.g., owls. The nest itself is enveloped in a large (up to three feet in diameter), dome-shaped, stick canopy, with entrances on both sides. Inside the stick canopy is a cup-shaped nest with a mud or manure base and a lining made from weeds, rootlets, hair, and grass. The female lays up to 9 eggs, but the typical clutch ranges from 6-7 eggs. The male brings food while the female incubates (for about 18 days). Both feed the young after they hatch. The young leave the nest at 3-4 weeks, and join with 2-8 other broods. The parents feed their own fledglings in these groups for another 3-4 weeks.

Feeding habits

Black-billed magpie is omnivorous, feeding mainly on insects. But it also consumes conifer seeds after breeding period. It may eat berries, nuts and other seeds in winter. They also eat carrion, chicks and eggs in other species nests, and small rodents.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 3,400,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003). Global population trends have not been quantified, but there is evidence of a population increase (Madge and Burn 1993, Snow and Perrins 1998), and so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Black-billed Magpie is a widespread resident across most of Europe, which accounts for less
than half of its global range. Its European breeding population is very large
(>7,500,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Although most European
populations-including the sizeable one in Turkey-were stable or increased during
1990-2000, key populations in France and Russia declined sharply, and the species
probably declined overall. Nevertheless, this recent decline is still outweighed by
earlier increases.
Black-billed magpie is still considered as a pest, and may be killed in some areas. They also are vulnerable to pesticides. However, populations are common and widespread.
Black-billed Magpie status Least Concern


Sedentary, with limited dispersal, chiefly in north of range. Most ringing recoveries over 30-40 km involve birds from northern Europe, and show no preferred direction. Reluctant to cross sea.

Distribution map

Black-billed Magpie distribution range map

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