Black-billed Magpie - Pica hudsonia
The Black-billed Magpie is medium-sized and boldly patterned. Sexes similar in appearance, and plumages similar throughout year. Adults largely black, with contrasting white scapulars, white belly, iridescent metallic blue-green wings and tail, and large white markings on primaries (rarely on secondaries), with form white patch on wing when wing is extended. Tail long and graduated. Sexes distinguished by differences in size. Males are larger (Trost 1999).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Historically, it frequently followed Native Americans and lived on the refuse of their hunts. In breeding season will be found in thickets in riparian areas, often associated with open meadows, grasslands, or sagebrush for foraging. Less specific in its habitat requirements in nonbreeding season. Frequently numerous near human habitats such as livestock feedlots, barnyards, landfills, sewage lagoons, and grain elevators (Trost 1999).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Ground-dwelling arthropods, seeds, and carrion (Trost 1999).
South of Missoula nesting density was 55.5 pairs per square mile; nesting range averaged 0.39 miles in diameter; and feeding territory averaged 400 feet in diameter. Humans and pine squirrels caused 14% and 12% of nesting failures. The Great Horned Owl is also a predator.
Nests are durable, domed structures of sticks, with mud cup and anchor. Generally prefers high trees. Have been know to nest on utility poles. Eggs usually subelliptical in shape, and tan or olive brown colored background with speckles (Trost 1999). South of Missoula the average clutch size was 6.5; 58% hatched; 88% of the young fledged; and the minimum breeding age was 1 year. Statewide, egg dates range from March 28 to May 26.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Trost, C. H. 1999. Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica). In The birds of North America, No. 389 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and American Ornithologists’ Union.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Atwell, G. C. 1959. An evaluation of magpie predation on the Ring-necked Pheasant. M.S. thesis, University of Montana, Missoula.
- Baril, Steven F., and Daniel Sullivan, 1983, Brodifacoum in bait stations for managing Columbian ground squirrels. Tech. Rep. 83-2. December 1983.
- Becker, D. M. 1987. Use of black-billed magpie nests by American kestrels in southeastern Montana. The Prairie Naturalist 19(1):41-42.
- Bergeson, W. R., and R. J. Greene. 1948. Experimental poisoning of magpies. Montana Fish and Game Dept. P-R Quarterly Report. January-March: 154-161.
- Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 2017. Pocket Guide to Northern Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 98 p.
- Bramblett, R.G., and A.V. Zale. 2002. Montana Prairie Riparian Native Species Report. Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University - Bozeman.
- Brown, R. L. 1957. The population ecology of the magpie in western Montana. M.S. thesis, University of Montana, Missoula.
- Brown, R.L. 1959. Magpie ups and down. Montana Wildlife. February 1959. 17-20
- Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2010. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2011. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2012. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Dickson, D.C. 1991. Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Missoula, MT. 14 pp. plus appendices and photographs.
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- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Elliott, Joe C. and Hydrometrics, Inc., Helena, MT., 1994, Supplement to wildlife baseline investigation life-of-mine expansion plan: Regal Mine, Barretts Minerals, Inc., Madison County, Montana. August 2000. In Life-of Mine Expansion Plan: Barretts Minerals, Inc., Regal Mine, Madison County, Montana. Vol. 2. App. C: Baseline Wildlife Reconnaissance. December 1999.
- Farmer, Pat, and Dean Culwell, Westech, Inc. [Western Technology and Engineering], Helena, MT., 1981, Terrestrial wildlife reconnaissance. March 1981.
- Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices.
- Godfrey, W. Earl. 1966. The birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa. 428 pp.
- Goodell, J. 2012. Morse Land Company Breeding Bird Inventory And Analysis. High Desert Museum. Bend, OR. 42 pp + Appendices.
- Graham, Dean, and Craig Swick., 1977, A Field evaluation of the cyclone seeder for reducing Richardson ground squirrel populations causing damage in central Montana . August 1977.
- Greene, R. J. 1948. Pheasant nest predation by magpies. Montana Fish and Game Dept. P-R Quarterly Rep., October-December: 171-179.
- Hendricks, P. 2000. Roadside bird counts on BLM lands in Petroleum and Fergus Counties, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 57pp.
- Hoffmann, R. S. 1960. Summer birds of the Little Belt Mountains, Montana. Occasional Papers of Montana State University No. 1, Missoula.
- Jellison, W. L. 1933. Faunae of nests of the magpie and crow in western Montana. Can. Entomol. 65:26-31.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2002: Cow Coulee, Townsend, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.013. February 2003. In 2002 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
- Landusky Mining Inc., Zortman, MT. Assisted by Hydrometrics, Helena, MT., 1985, Operating Permit Application for an Extension of Landusky Mining Incorporated Operations, Phillips County, Montana. June 12, 1985
- Lenard, S. and P. Hendricks. 2005. Birds of selected grassland and riparian plots along the Rocky Mountain Front. Montana Natural Heritage Program for US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. 17pp + maps.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Lockhart, J. Michael, 1976, Effects of coal extraction and related development on wildlife populations. Annual progress report; Calendar year 1976. In Decker Coal Company West Pit Permit. Vol. 3. 26.4.304(10-11), 305, 306, and 307. Updated Rules Rewrite, July 1, 1991. Appendix F.
- Madge, S. and H. Burn. 1994. Crows and Jays: A guide to crows, jays, and magpies of the world. Houghton Mifflin Company, N.Y. 191 pp.
- Matthews, W.L. 1980a. Wibaux-Beach comparison study: Sydney, Glendive and Plevna Study Areas. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 50 p.
- Matthews, W.L. 1981. Broadus-Pumpkin Creek baseline inventory - wildlife. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 83 p.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- O'Halloran, P. L. 1961. Dynamics of a reduced magpie population. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 78 pp.
- Pitkin, P. and L. Quattrini. 2017. Pocket Guide to Sagebrush Birds. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and Point Blue Conservation Science. 68 p.
- Ruff, R. L. 1963. A study of the predatory effects of a reduced magpie population on the ring-necked pheasant. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 96 pp.
- Salt, W.R. and J.R. Salt. 1976. The birds of Alberta. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Alberta. xv + 498 pp.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Stevenson, R. E. 1971. Temperature acclimatization in the black-billed magpie (Pica pica hudsoni, Sabine). Ph.D. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman. 33 pp.
- Stewart, R.E. 1975. Breeding birds of North Dakota. Tri-College Center for Environmental Studies, Fargo, North Dakota. 295 pp.
- Sullivan, Daniel, 1982, Bait stations as a means of rodenticide presentation to control Columbian ground squirrrels. Technical Rep. 82-3. Sept. 1982.
- Swenson, J. E. 1980. Seasonal changes in habitat use and flock size by Black-billed Magpies along the lower Yellowstone River, Montana. Prairie Naturalist 12(3/4):105-109.
- The Anaconda Co., 1976, Wildlife survey: The Anaconda Company Berkeley Complex 1976 Proposed Permit Area. May 6, 1976.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- VTN Environmental Sciences, Sheridan, Wyoming for Montana Dept. of State Lands, 1973, Environmental Analysis Decker Coal Company Mine, Decker, Montana.
- Waage, B.C. 1984. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1983 Field Season. June 1984.
- Western Technology and Engineering, Inc., Helena, MT., 1989, Reconnaissance of the wildlife resources in the vicinity of the Kendall Venture Mine. January 1989. In Kendall Venture North Moccasin Project: Amendment to Operating Permit 00122, Fergus County, Montana. Vol. 2, App. A, Feb., 1989.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"