The black-billed magpie is one of the few North American birds that build a domed nest. This nest is made up of twigs and sits near the top of trees. Usually 6–7 eggs are laid. Incubation, by the female only, starts when the clutch is complete, and lasts 16–21 days. The nestling period is 3–4 weeks.
The black-billed magpie is almost identical with the European magpie, Pica pica, and is considered conspecific by many sources. The American Ornithologists' Union, however, splits it as a separate species, Pica hudsonia, on the grounds that its mtDNA sequence is closer to that of California's yellow-billed magpie, Pica nuttalli, than to the European magpie. If this view is correct, the Korean subspecies of the European magpie, Pica pica sericea, should also be considered a separate species.
Formerly lumped with the common magpie of Europe and Asia, the black-billed magpie is an elegant and graceful corvid familiar in western North America and easily recognized by its size and coloration, as well as its distinctive tail. Black-billed magpies frequent open country with thickets and scattered trees, especially riparian groves. They can be found near farms and within cities and suburbs. Dry open pine forests are another possible habitat.
Black-billed magpies are also known to make food caches in the ground, in scatter-hoarding fashion. To make a cache, the bird pushes or hammers its bill into the ground (or snow), forming a small hole into which it deposits the food items it was holding in a small pouch under its tongue.
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