Divorce that Magpie

The Black-billed Magpie is a bird in the crow family that inhabits the western half of North America. It is notable being one of only four North American songbirds whose tail makes up half or more of the total body length.

Adult Black-billed Magpie pairs stay together year-round and often for life unless one dies, in which case the remaining magpie may find another mate.

Divorces are possible: one South Dakota study found low rates of divorce (8%) but one 7-year study in Alberta found divorce rates up to 63%.


Black-billed Magpies indulge in anting (applying ants onto their plumage) and sun-bathing (back facing the sun, head down, wings drooped and spread wide, tail fanned, back feathers fluffed up). They also belong to that group of birds that scratch their head with their foot over the wing.

Black-billed Magpies were considered detrimental to game-bird populations (they sometimes steal bird eggs) and domestic stock (they sometimes peck at sores on cattle), and were systematically trapped or shot. Bounties of one cent per egg or two cents per head were offered in many states.

Black-billed Magpies breed for the first time at 1 or 2 years of age. The lifespan of the species in the wild is about four to six years.


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