Black-billed Magpie

I’ve marveled at photos of others of the flashy Black-billed Magpie.  Not seen on the East Coast, this species is widespread in towns, fields, and stream corridors of the West.

Their bold, contrasting plumage and glossy blue/green iridescence on their wings are unmistakable.  I saw my first Magpie in Utah; and as we moved north on our road trip, they were a common sight to my delight.


Black-billed Magpies are a relative of Jays and Crows but slightly larger.


They’re also vocal birds and keep up a regular stream of raucous calls.


One of the most interesting Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called “funeral”. When one Magpie discovers a demised Magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other Magpies.  The gathering of raucously-calling Magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.

Magpies are social, inquisitive birds that eat fruits, grains, insects, and small animals.


On their expeditions, Lewis and Clark reported Magpies boldly entering their tents to steal food.

The Magpie is a beauty in flight as well!





I love photos with fences, so I had to include and share this last photo.


As you know, it is always a delight for me to get to add another lifer to my bird list!    🙂


46 thoughts on “Black-billed Magpie

  1. Great shots Donna! Congratulations with the lifer. You’re right, we don’t get to see them on the East Coast. 🙂

  2. Amazing how I take these sightings for granted. I guess I’m used to seeing them all over Colorado and Utah. They’re characters!

  3. Here (in Romania) we have Eurasian magpie (Pica pica) which is very similar to this one. It is a very well spread bird. I like them even if sometimes they are quite noisy.

  4. Donna, these are beautiful! I have seen magpies out west, and also photographed one on our trip this past summer to England and Wales – on the west coast of Wales. I’m not sure how similar it is to our magpies. I’ll email you a photo and you can compare.

  5. For all the times I see them, it is not always easy to get a good shot of these birds. I find them excellent teasers of animals and people, very intelligent and curious.Yes, they can be raucuous, especially with a family of two or three young ones, and they have one to two nests per city block here, but fascinating. Only time I held them in distain was watching them tease a young rabbit, with the possibility of pecking its eyes out or when they ate the chickadee babies out of a nest in a stump. I have seen gatherings such as you describe in the funeral in the early evenings in the summer as they fly in to the meeting place from all directions, a kind of gathering of the clan..You have nice shots, especially in flight.

    • Thanks so much for your interesting info on the Magpies. I did read that they did rob eggs and I wasn’t too happy about that fact. But they are a beauty, and did seem to play with me, keeping me entertained with their antics. 🙂

  6. I love magpies, they’re so smart and beautiful and bold. Your photos here are really excellent, Donna, and you captured the magpie in all his glory. I did not know about the “funeral” behavior, very interesting.

  7. Beautiful shots! I am from eastern Canada and I remember the first time I saw these after moving to Calgary. They are pretty birds but are also very loud. One was very curious about my dog and followed us through the park.

    • Thanks so much, Debbie! I know we camped in their territory, but they did seem to ‘play’ with me while I watched and followed them and they followed me. I figured they were looking for a hand-out, they kept hanging around the fire pit. 🙂

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