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Yellow-billed Magpie - Pica nuttalli

Yellow-billed Magpie
Yellow-billed Magpie - Pica nuttalli
Photo credit - Bill Bouton


The Yellow-billed Magpie is one of only two endemic Californian birds i.e. found exclusively in California. In its limited habitat, this magpie intrigues birdwatchers and tourists alike. Their loud calls, fights, and bright colors make watching them an exciting experience. Traveling in flocks, magpies live in a state of competition creating an entertaining spectacle. They eat a large range of foods including grubs, worms and fruit. Magpies build large nests made of sticks and mud in which they lay 6-8 eggs in February. They usually nest in oak or sycamore trees.

For more information about all the birds of the Bay area see the Birds page.

Where to View

Magpies reside primarily in the Central Valley and the East Bay of California. They mostly live in open areas filled with oak trees. They do not move very far, so they are easy to find. Some tips for magpie watching:

  • Magpies tend to live around 3 main aspects crucial to their habitat: big trees (usually oak), grasslands to feed, and large water supplies. Where you find these elements you'll most likely find the Magpie.
  • Listen for their loud calls.
  • Do not approach them or be too loud, simply wait and watch from afar and they will quickly begin to ignore your presence.

For current sightings see the eBird Sightings Map. Here are some Bay area and nearby locations where you have a good chance of seeing the Yellow-billed Magpie:

Conservation Status

The Yellow-billed Magpie is on the watch list, meaning it requires more attention and care. Magpies are killed via the poisoning of ground squirrels (by humans), and the destruction of their habitat. The IUCN Redlist classifies its status as of "Least Concern". This means that it has been evaluated to have a low risk of extinction.

Articles/Links about Yellow-billed Magpies

  • Species page from Yolo Conservation Plan with good details about habits and habitat 
  • Species page on All About Birds from Cornell Lab of Ornithology 
  • Annual Yellow-billed Magpie Survey Report 2011 on California Audubon blog 
  • WatchList species status from American Bird Conservancy 
  • UC Davis discussion and forum on the Magpie, its diseases and other topics 


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