Gray Jay

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Corvidae

Genus: Pica

Species: hudsonia

**Audio Coming Soon**


  • Length: 19"
  • Wing span: 25"
  • Weight: 6 oz (175 grams)
  • Large black & white songbird wiht a long black tail
  • Black head & chest, white belly & shoulder with white patches on wings
  • Glossy iridescence on wings and tail
  • Sexes look alike


  • Common and very conspicuous bird of western North America, the Black-billed Magpie is found in urban as well as rural areas. Its bold black-and-white pattern and long tail make it easy to identify
  • Until very recently the Black-billed Magpie was considered the same species as the Eurasian Magpie. Vocal and behavioral differences suggest that the American magpie with the black bill is more closely related to the Yellow-billed Magpie than to the European black-billed magpie. The Eurasian Magpie is found across a vast range from northern Africa across Europe to Southeast Asia and Siberia. It may in fact be several different species
  • The Black-billed Magpie makes a very large nest that can take up to 40 days to construct. It's a lot of work, but a study found that it only used about 1% of the daily energy expenditure of the pair. Laying eggs, on the other hand, takes 23% of the female's daily energy budget
  • Like most members of its family, the Black-billed Magpie is known as a predator on nests of other birds. Although it will take eggs and nestlings, these items actually make up only a tiny portion of the magpie's diet. In England, one study found that songbird density actually increased when Eurasian Magpie density increased
  • The Black-billed Magpie frequently lands on large mammals, such as deer and moose, to remove ticks from them. The magpie eats the ticks, and then hides some for later use, as members of the crow and jay family often do with excess food. Most of the ticks, however, are cached alive and unharmed, and may live to reproduce later

All photographs and audio clips are ©Jamie Mullin 2008

Sources: Cornell Lab of Ornithology & The Sibley Guide to Birds.