Magpies Are Stunning in Black and White

Most likely, you have seen magpies on TV in the commercials about window cleaners. The magpies are talking to each other about the dangers of flying into a super clean window that looks invisible. That is true to character. Magpies “talk” to each other a lot. They are a noisy gathering of birds.

With their definitive black and white feather pattern and foot long tail, magpies are easy to identify. Just look closely at their bill to see whether it is a black-billed magpie or a yellow-billed magpie. But actually the yellow-billed magpie lives in California and is significantly smaller than the more widespread black-billed magpie throughout the west.

Magpies (Pica pica) are members of the Crow Family.  They build large nests of mud and sticks.
Often their domed nests have more than one entrance and may be from 2-4 ft tall. I have never seen one but nests are found in bushes or in low branches close to tree trunks. Rarely are they seen above 25 feet.  Magpies may have a clutch of 7-13 eggs. If food is sufficient it is possible that all of the chicks will hatch and fledge after about 16 days.  Then they travel  in small family groups. Magpies will migrate in larger groups of 60 or so in search of food when winter comes.  Some may migrate east while others migrate to different elevations in the mountains.

How Big Are Magpies?  

The Black-billed magpies are about 17-22  inches long and their tail is more than half of that length. Yellow-billed magpies are smaller, ranging from 16-18 inches long, also with the tail being more than half of that length. These birds are easy to identify, assuming you are in the correct range and habitat for each of them. The only other North American birds with tails longer than their bodies are the pheasants, and the scissor-tailed flycatchers or fork-tailed flycatchers.

What do Magpies Eat?

Magpies have a simple yet varied diet which includes grasshoppers, maggots and ticks. That is one reason you often see magpies near large grazing animals like deer and bison. The magpie will actually land on the back of these mammals and pick off the ticks for their meal. Now and then a magpie may steal eggs from a smaller bird’s nest or catch a mouse or snake.

Are Magpies a music group?

I know of at least two music groups who use the name of Magpies, Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino are a folk music team with that name.

Note: Photos will follow.

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