Nov 14 2010
He has a crow head, blue jay colors and an incredibly long tail. He resembles crows and jays because he’s a corvid. We don’t see him in Pennsylvania because he lives west of Iowa and east of the Sierra Nevadas. Say hello to the black-billed magpie.
I saw this bird once. But now I have never seen him. Years ago I saw a magpie outside my airplane window as we taxied to the gate at Charles de Gaulle airport. Then, in their never-ending quest to reclassify birds the American Ornithological Union split the black-billed magpie from the European magpie and this bird dropped off my life list. He is now Pica hudsonia. The bird I saw in Paris was a Pica pica.
If I visited open country in the western U.S. I could easily re-add this bird to my list. Black-billed magpies are loud and conspicuous, midway in size between blue jays and American crows. Like crows they are smart, omnivorous and versatile. Their claim to fame is their very long tail (more than half their body length) and their huge ball-shaped stick nests.
Maybe I should fly to Denver and look out the airplane window.
(photo by Julie Brown)