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Animal Information

Black-billed Magpie Big Sky Country

Black-billed Magpie

Pica pica

Biome: Big Sky Country

Classification: Birds

Biography: Streaming, iridescent tails and flashing white wing patches identify black-billed magpies in flight. On the ground, these striking members of the crow family forage for insects, fruits, mice and carrion, and will sometimes steal the eggs and young of smaller birds. Magpies usually nest in loose colonies. Each stick nest can measure 2-4 feet high and is topped with a protective dome of thorny twigs. Five to nine eggs are laid in the inner nest cup that is built of mud and lined with fine grasses, roots and animal hair.

Magpies are social birds and prefer to travel in small flocks, keeping up a steady chatter of raucous calls.
Black-billed magpies are common in western North America and live in tall thickets along streams and among scattered trees in open country. Magpies are one of the most common sights on the prairies. They thrive on carrion, insects, small rodents, nuts and berries, and are notorious nest robbers. Because their short rounded wings and long tails make rapid flight impossible, they spend much time foraging on the ground. Their noisy chattering sometimes imitates the human voice.

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