The Yellow-billed Magpie is one of California’s most striking birds. Popular among birders and compelling to conservationists, the bird is a true endemic that lives only in California’s Central Valley and coastal ranges in oak savannah woodlands and similar habitats. The bird has a black head and chest, white shoulders and belly, iridescent blue wings, and long tapered black tail. Its bill is bright yellow.
On the Menu
The Yellow-billed Magpie forages mostly on the ground in grassland, agricultural fields, pastures, and barnyards, taking a variety of insects and occasionally, small mammals. Yellow-billed Magpies are highly social, foraging and roosting together often in large numbers. They are often seen aggressively mobbing predators or other perceived threats, including humans.
Home Sweet Home
Yellow-billed Magpies live only in California, west of Sierra Nevada. Their range includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin valley floors and foothills and valleys of the Coast Ranges from San Francisco Bay south to Santa Barbara County.
How Am I Doing?
For a variety of reasons – including habitat loss, pesticide use, and West Nile Virus – the Yellow-billed Magpie population dwindled in recent years, and it is now an Audubon WatchList species. Researchers with Audubon California recently identified the Yellow-billed Magpie as being particularly susceptible to climate change.
Help from Audubon
Audubon has named the Yellow-billed Magpie a WatchList species, and the bird gets support from the Important Bird Areas program. Audubon California conducts an annual volunteer survey to track the bird’s population and inform the public about the need to protect this iconic California bird.
The Yellow-billed Magpie was named Audubon California’s first Bird of the Year in 2009 after an online poll placed it ahead of seemingly more popular birds such as the Brown Pelican and the Bald Eagle.