Back to Species Accounts

Black-billed Magpie



Species Map not available.

Scientific Name: Pica pica

Nest Type: Saucer

Nest Location: Deciduous tree, shrub; 20-30'

Clutch Size: 1-13; avg. 5-8

Food: Omnivore

Foraging Guild: Ground gleaner

The Black-billed Magpie is found primarily in the northwestern United States, northwest to Alaska, southwest to California, east to Oklahoma, and reaches as far east as northwestern Minnesota and western Ontario (Bent 1946, DeGraaf et al. 1991). In Minnesota, the species has become a permanent breeding resident in the northwestern and north central portions of the state (Janssen 1987). The species is a regular winter visitant in northwestern Minnesota and stragglers may be found almost anywhere in the state. Loose migratory periods are common and include returning to the state from mid-February to early April, and fall migration periods occur from early September to mid-November (Janssen 1987).

The Black-billed Magpie is a marginal species of forested zones and is primarily found in open woodlands, pasture lands, rangelands, and shrubby riparian areas (Linsdale 1937, DeGraaf et al. 1991). It generally avoids dense forested areas. The species builds a bulky nest anywhere from 2-25 ft in a tree or shrub. The species is highly omnivorous and will generally feed on insects including grasshoppers, snails, slugs, young birds and eggs, small mammals, and carrion (Martin et al. 1951).

The Black-billed Magpie has shown a moderately significant increase in Minnesota based on Breeding Bird Survey roadside counts in Minnesota. Janssen (1990) presented data on a 9 % annual increase, yet enough data were only available for 9 of 52 routes run in Minnesota.

Because the species marginally uses forested habitat in the state, it is unlikely to be negatively affected by any changes in forest harvesting or management. The species is likely to benefit from increased harvesting and any reduction in larger contiguous forests. Furthermore, because the species is a predator of many birds and their young (Andren 1992), any increase would likely negatively affect forest bird species that it occurs with during the breeding season. As with the Blue Jay, quantitative data are lacking to speculate on what the overall effects would be on other species. However, with its current low population in the state, the overall effect of predation by the Black-billed Magpie is likely negligible and localized.