Photo: Andrew Reding/Flickr Creative Commons

Yellow-billed Magpie

Pica nuttalli

A bird of open country in California's central valleys. While its Black-billed relative lives across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, as well as western North America, the Yellow-billed Magpie lives only in California -- in an area about 500 miles from north to south and less than 150 miles wide. Within this limited region, Yellow-billeds nest in colonies in groves of tall trees.
Conservation status Surveys suggest population declines in recent decades. Has disappeared from some former areas of occurrence. Because of its limited range and specialized habitat requirements, climate change could pose a serious threat.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat Stream groves, scattered oaks, ranches, farms. Most numerous in open oak savanna and where riverside groves of oaks, cottonwoods, and sycamores border on open country such as pastures or farmland.
A bird of open country in California's central valleys. While its Black-billed relative lives across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, as well as western North America, the Yellow-billed Magpie lives only in California -- in an area about 500 miles from north to south and less than 150 miles wide. Within this limited region, Yellow-billeds nest in colonies in groves of tall trees.
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Eggs

5-8, usually 7. Olive-buff, marked with brown or olive. Incubation is by female, about 18 days. Male brings food to incubating female. Young: Both parents feed young. Time to fledging not well known, but parents may continue to feed young for several weeks after they leave nest. 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed young. Time to fledging not well known, but parents may continue to feed young for several weeks after they leave nest. 1 brood per year.

Diet

Omnivorous. Diet varies with season, but year-round may average about 30% plant material, 70% animal material (mainly insects). May feed heavily on acorns in fall and winter, cracking them open by pounding with bill; also eats carrion in winter. Eats many grasshoppers in late summer. When foraging on ground, may use bill to flip over cow dung, wood chips, etc., to look for food. Magpies also steal food from each other and from other animals. Sometimes cache food items (such as acorns) in shallow holes in ground, tree crevices, etc


Nesting

Nests in small colonies. Pair formation may begin in fall, although birds remain in flocks during winter. Main courtship ritual involves male feeding female. Nest: Both sexes build nest, placing it far out on limb high in tree (usually 40-60' above ground). Nest often built on top of mistletoe clump, and even if not, may resemble such a clump from a distance. Nest is bulky domed structure (2-3' in diameter) with entrance on side, made of sticks and twigs. Interior of nest has base usually made of mud, lined with fine plant materials.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. Rarely wanders away from breeding areas, perhaps most often in winter.

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Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. Rarely wanders away from breeding areas, perhaps most often in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A raucous qua-qua-qua and a querulous quack.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Crows, Magpies, Jays Perching Birds

Yellow-billed Magpie

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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