Black-billed Magpie

A Black-billed Magpie is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Black-billed Magpies. We have also put together a list of fun Black-billed Magpie T-shirts, Black-billed Magpie bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.

About Black-billed Magpies

They are common and entertaining birds found in the western part of North America. Black-billed Magpies can be seen sitting on signal posts and across rangelands. Black-billed Magpies are known to build their nests for up to 40 days which actually does not take too much of their energy. It is a frequent groomer of large mammals like the moose picking ticks from their backs.

Description and Identification

Black-billed Magpies are beautiful mid-sized birds. They are 18-24 inches long, with a black and white body. Blue-green iridescent flashes on their wings and their upper body makes these birds stand out. Their tail makes up for more than half of their entire body length. Black-billed magpies have white underparts, and two white patches of white on the sides of their back and the sides of their wings. The rest of their body is black except the body parts with blue-green iridescent flashes. Male Black-billed magpies are 6-9% larger and 16-24% heavier than the females. They usually communicate through a sequence of rough, scratchy calls, although when threatened they utter a shrill scream.

Black-billed Magpie Color Pattern

Black-billed Magpies have a blue radiance on their black and white body which flashes on their wings and tail. The outer wings have white patches and white stripes running down their back. The magpie has black upper parts and white underparts.

Black-billed Magpie Size

The Black-billed Magpie is significantly larger than others of its species with heavy bills and diamond tails. Both sexes are 45-60 centimeters in length and weigh 145-210 grams. They have a wingspan of 56-61 centimeters.

Black Billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie Behavior

They are territorial birds who perch on tall trees to establish visual dominance, males hold their beaks high and flash their white eyelids. They may gather in flocks, and show aggression by flapping their wings and extending them to show the white patches. While courting the female Black-billed Magpies stand next to the female to ensure she doesn’t mate with any other male in the flock. They engage in funeral-like behavior for dead magpies where up to 40 magpies gather for 10 to 15 minutes.

Black-billed Magpie Diet

Black-billed Magpies are omnivores that eat a wide variety of food. Their diet mainly consists of grasshoppers, beetles, meadow voles, mice, and grain crops. These birds are also scavengers, that steal meat from animals hunted by foxes and coyotes. When there is a surplus of food, they are also known to cache in small depressions dug in the snow or the ground.

They have a wide range of diet solutions ranging from fruits and plants to insects like grasshoppers and beetles. Black-billed Magpies attack and kill small mammals like squirrels and attack other birds’ nests. They also pick ticks from larger mammals, usually, they feed on the ticks but sometimes they keep them safely for later. One other delicacy for the Black-billed Magpie is fly maggots found in decaying animal bodies.

Black-billed Magpie Habitat

Black-billed Magpies to live among rangelands and wooded areas with open fields that are close to water. They live in elevations of about 1.8 miles in open forests with the presence of shrubby thickets, as they are needed for nesting. Meadows and clearings close to their nesting sites are essential for foraging. Black-billed Magpies require a habitat that is strong enough to support their bulky nests. The ideal conditions needed for these birds to thrive are present in farm sites and agricultural areas. Another advantage of agricultural areas is the added opportunity of scavenging waste from compost piles. They are common in grasslands and plains on the western side of North America. They nest along streams and open areas, rather than thick forests.

Range and Migration

Black-billed Magpies are entertaining birds, native to western North America. These birds are widely spread across regions such as Colorado, Central Oregon, northern Nevada, Nebraska, and Central Kansas. They are also commonly found in various states of Canada. Black-billed Magpies are generally permanent residents, but they might migrate short distances. During the fall, upslope migration can be noticed, and during winter a few birds migrate southward.

Black-billed Magpie Lifecycle

Both males and females choose the nesting site and have been known to disagree and the pair building separate nests. The male collects materials for the outer parts of the nest and the female collects softer material for the inner part. She may lay up to a maximum of 9 eggs and incubation lasts about 16 to 19 days. 24 to 30 days later, the hatchlings are strong enough to leave the nest.


Most Black-billed Magpies are monogamous in nature, but in some regions, they find new mates every year. During their fertile period, females call loudly to attract the attention of the males. The males attempt to court the females by flashing the white patches on their wings and flaring their tails. Generally, both members of the pair choose a nesting site together, but if in disagreement they might build two nests in separate locations. They build dome-shaped nests of an average diameter of 3 feet with entrances on both sides. The males are tasked with building the exterior portion of the nest, while the females focus on the interior. After laying 1-9 eggs, they have an incubation period of 16-19 days. Black-billed Magpies usually only raise one brood annually, but if one breeding attempt is unsuccessful they might try again for the second time.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Black-billed Magpies

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Black-billed Magpies are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Black-billed Magpie Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Black-billed Magpie. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Black-billed Magpies

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Best Bird Houses For Black-Billed Magpies

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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