Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 1, 2014
Black-billed Magpies take 40 to 50 days to build their nests

A black-billed magpie looks over his territory on a wooden post near Churchwood Road.

A black-billed magpie looks over his territory on a wooden post near Churchwood Road.

Known as “black-billed magpies” or “American magpies” this omnivorous bird inhabits a portion of North America’s water banked shores, fields, thickets, spacious woodlands and parts of many cities. In Utah and Tooele County, they can be seen everywhere.

When it comes to food, black-billed magpies are both persistent and daring around humans, especially when it comes to thieving. In fact, Louis and Clark had reportedly mentioned that when they had first encountered magpies in South Dakota in 1804, the birds fearlessly encroached inside their tents in search for food.

Mostly scavenging for insects, seeds, berries, nuts, garbage, animal carcasses, vulnerable pet food and fallen or abandoned scraps, the black-billed magpie will also occasionally devour available rodents, snakes, eggs and nest fledglings.

Unlike other nests, black-billed magpies build nests that take an approximate 40 to 50 days to construct, which they immediately build once they mate. Once the nest is deserted, hawks, owls and other bird species sometimes reuse the empty nest.

Eventually occupied with 6 to 13 eggs, both parents provide their clutch with food. The female feeds first by her spouse while she incubates the eggs.

Taking 16 to 21 days to hatch, it will be another 3 to 4 weeks before the young are capable of flying. They will spend an extra two months flocking and feeding with their parents and then the juveniles will leave their parents to group with other fledged younglings.

Interestingly, black-billed magpies also pick ticks and other insects from moose, deer, buffalo, cattle and other large animals. Black-billed magpies will mate for life unless one dies, then they may find a replacement.


Addie T. Lindsay is 17 years old and is an accomplished writer and photographer of wildlife creatures, big and small. She can be reached at

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