WatchList Species Account for Yellow-billed Magpie
(Pica nuttalli)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Ashok Khosla
Photo: Ashok Khosla

Endemic to California, the Yellow-billed Magpie is found primarily in the Central Valley but also in the southern Coast Ranges and foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Some authorities regard it as a subspecies of the Black-billed Magpie, to which it is similar in volaizations and social behavior. The bird is resident in open oak woodland within its range and individuals are very sedentary, with nonbreeding flocks generally staying near their breeding area. It nests high in trees, predominantly oaks.


There have been local extirpations of the species brought about by destruction of habitat and poisoning of ground squirrels. The species persists in high densities in the Sacramento Valley but has disappeared from the south coast of Santa Barbara County and all of Ventura County.


The Yellow-billed Magpie forages mostly on the ground in savannah grassland, pasture, and agricultural areas, where it feeds on invertebrates, grain, acorns, small mammals, and carrion. It is found in small flocks during breeding and large flocks during nonbreeding. Total numbers are estimated at 25-50,000 breeding pairs, at a minimum. The population appears to be stable.


Preservation of oak savannahs in California is essential for the conservation of this endemic species. Poisoning of ground squirrels threatens the magpie, at least locally, and is a practice that should be stopped