Yellow-billed Magpie Pica nuttalli Scientific name definitions

Walter D. Koenig, Mark D. Reynolds, and Daniel A. Airola
Version: 2.0 — Published January 7, 2022


Field Identification

Medium-sized corvid (length 43–54 cm, mass 150–170 g). Sexes alike in plumage. Males larger than females. Unmistakable; adults (Definitive Basic Plumage) have head and upperparts black with contrasting white scapulars and primaries, white lower breast and upper belly, and very long graduated tail. Wings and tail have blue-green iridescence. Juveniles less iridescent than adults, and have a slight brownish wash on head, back, and wing-coverts; also have rounded rather than square-tipped rectrices and a broader black tip to the outermost primary, compared to adults. First-year birds (Formative Plumage) can be distinguished by molt limits among upperwing-coverts and characteristics of retained juvenile flight feathers.

Similar Species

Very similar in plumage to Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia), but yellow bill and bare patch of skin around eyes in all plumages is diagnostic. Yellow-billed Magpie is also noticeably smaller than Black-billed Magpie. Ranges of the two species do not overlap, with the exception of rare, out-of-range vagrants (most commonly of Black-billed Magpies; see Distribution) making their way across (to the east side in the case of Yellow-billed; west side in the case of Black-billed) the Sierra/Cascade Mountains (see distributions at eBird.org).

Recommended Citation

Koenig, W. D., M. D. Reynolds, and D. A. Airola (2022). Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (G. M. Kirwan and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.yebmag.02