Meadows, grasslands, open woodlands, and sagebrush plains
Central and western North America from California, Texas, and Michigan to Alaska
Least Concern (IUCN Red List)
This species is
to the Truckee Meadows.
Black-billed magpies are mostly black-and-white birds similar to jays. They have long tails, heavy bills, and blue-green iridescent colors on their wings. These birds can be recognized in flight by their deep, rowing wingbeats mixed with gliding, as well as their white primary feathers that are flashed with each flap.
Magpies are closely related to crows, jays, and ravens, all in the corvid family.
Although they appear blue in certain light, magpie feathers are playing a trick on you! Each feather is made up of light-scattering, microscopic beads spaced in a way that everything except blue light is cancelled out. Blue on any animal (including humans’ blue eyes) is due to some kind of light reflection of this type.
Studies have shown that magpies, like humans, can recognize themselves in mirrors and even track down stolen items and make decisions faster when humans are looking at them.
Black-billed magpies will often pick ticks of the backs of animals such as moose and deer. Most of the ticks that are caught aren't eaten instantly, but instead stored for later. Magpies, like other members of the jay and crow family, regularly cache excess food.
In the Paiute language, magpies are known as Kwedagagi’e.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Black-Billed Magpie, 2021, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-billed_Magpie
IUCN Red List, Black-Billed Magpie, 2021, https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/103727176/111465610
Pyramid Lake, The Paiute Language, 2021, http://www.numuinc.com/home/the-tribe/the-paiute-language/
Smithsonian Magazine, Why Are Some Feathers Blue?, 2012, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-are-some-feathers-blue-100492890/
BBC News, Magpie 'Can Recognise Reflection', 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7570291.stm
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