Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Don Paul
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The black-billed magpie, Pica hudsonia, is a flashy, resourceful, and bold bird that occupies a disjointed range that includes southern Alaska, the Alaska peninsula, and a large area approximately delineated by the following: south of southwestern Canada, west of the Great Plains, east of the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas, and north of Arizona and New Mexico. It is commonly found in the valleys and foothills of northern Utah. It is not considered migratory, but after breeding, individuals may move great distances from nesting sites. Black-billed magpies forage on the ground for arthropods, seeds, and dead animals. In addition, they also forage for insects directly off of live deer and moose, and they have even been known to pull flesh off of living animals.

Pairs form during the fall and winter, and some will mate for life. The pair will engage in a lengthy courtship centered around the male providing food for the female. Both the male and the female will help build the nest, which takes approximately six weeks. The nests of black-billed magpies are sturdy domed structures that are often used in later years by mammals or other birds. The nest consists of a mud anchor in which twigs and sticks are inserted to create a dome-like structure. Then, a mud bowl is constructed atop the mud anchor and lined with grass. The number of eggs incubated varies greatly (between one and nine). The female sits on the eggs for the approximately eighteen day incubation period. The male provides food for the female while she is sitting on the nest. Young are born without down, and their eyes will remain closed for the first week. Both parents feed the young until the young leave the nest at about three to four weeks of age. The young are still dependent on their parents for food for up to two months after leaving the nest.


  • Trost, C. H. 1999. Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica). Birds of North America 389.

  • Ryser, F. A., Jr. 1985. Birds of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.