The beauty of this bird is too often overlooked because its raucous and aggressive demeanor overshadows its gorgeous, panda-like plumage. The long, shiny tail of the Black-billed Magpie is one of the longest of any North American bird. Most residents are jaded by the omnipresence of magpies, but foreign visitors to our parks are often captivated by their beauty and approachability. The abundance of hoofed mammals in many Rocky Mountain parks provides magpies and other scavengers with a dependable food source during harsh winters. Winter- and predator-killed elk, deer, moose and bison are fundamental building blocks for the Rocky Mountain food web. A well-planned day trip in Colorado can yield as many as 10 members of the corvid family (including the Chihuahuan Raven, which is not found in the Rockies), more than anywhere else in North America. Black-billed Magpies also occur in Europe, North Africa, Arabia and Asia.
I.D.: Sexes similar: long, black tail; black head, breast and back; rounded, black-and-white wings; black undertail coverts; black bill; white belly.
Size: L 18-22 in. (46-56 cm).
Range: common to very common year-round throughout the Rockies.
Habitat: open forests, agricultural areas, riparian thickets, townsites and campgrounds up to and the montane.
Nesting: in a tree or tall shrub; domed stick and twig nest is often held together with mud; female incubates 5-8 eggs for up to 24 days.
Feeding: forages on the ground for insects, carrion and garbage; picks insects and ticks off large ungulates.
Voice: loud, nasal, frequently repeated yeck-yeck-yeck; also many other vocalizations.
Similar Species: none.