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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Black-billed Magpie -- Pica pica

RANGE: Resident from south-coastal and southern Alaska to northern Alberta, central Manitoba, and western Ontario south to northeastern and east-central California and south-central Nevada, across to western and northeastern Oklahoma. Casual north and east of range in fall and winter.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Typically inhabits open country with short, scattered, clumped or grazed vegetation, or exposed ground, and with patches of scrub, large bushes, or trees. Avoids dense forests and strictly desert regions. Found nearly up to timberline in the mountains; frequents a variety of open habitats including sagebrush, agricultural lands, pastures, grasslands, forest edges, streamsides with tall thickets and scattered trees, open woodlands, and urban areas.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open country for foraging, trees or large bushes for nesting and cover.

NEST: Builds a bulky stick nest from a few feet to 25 feet above the ground in a variety of trees or tall bushes, especially thorny ones. Nests in small, scattered colonies along streams, in woods, or in thickets, less often on buildings, cliff ledges, high banks, or on the ground among bushy cover. Sometimes reuses the old nest but usually builds a new nest each year.

FOOD: Forages mainly on the ground, sometimes in trees or shrubs, for insects, especially grasshoppers. Also eats snails, slugs, millipedes, spiders, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, young birds and eggs, small mammals, carrion, and wild and cultivated fruits.

REFERENCES: Ballard in Farrand 1983b, Goodwin 1976, Johnsgard 1979, Kalmbach 1927, Linsdale 1937, Terres 1980, Wilmore 1977.

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