Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

A Black-billed magpie in Kamloops, British Columbia

A Black-billed magpie in Kamloops, British Columbia

black-billed magpie sitting in tree - british columbia 2

After spending a few days on Vancouver Island, Bob and I returned to the mainland for a trip to the interior.  During a brief stay in Kamloops, we were lucky enough to see a number of Black-billed Magpies (Pica hudsonia) congregated outside of our hotel.

kamloops in winter - british columbia

Bob and I had completed a 6-hour drive from Vancouver to arrive at our hotel for the night, but feeling refreshed the next morning, we were out and about early.  Kamloops is located in what is referred to as Thompson Country because of its position at the confluence of two branches of the Thompson River near Kamloops Lake.

black-billed magpie on snow - kamloops - british columbia

When putting our luggage back into the car, we saw a number of Black-billed Magpies scavenging for food bits scattered in the snow.  On that frosty morning, the birds were grateful for every little bite.  I was so excited to come across some of these magnificent birds as I had seen sightings reported on the internet and thought the birds were quite striking.

black-billed magpies - kamloops - british columbia

Black-billed Magpies are members of the crow family and are found in the western half of North America.  They are large, flashy birds that gather in groups wherever food is readily available.  Magpies are omnivores so eat a variety of foodstuffs including grains, insects, berries, nuts and even carrion.  Like other members of the jay family, they also will rob other birds’ nests of their eggs and nestlings, but these constitute a small percentage of the Magpie’s diet.

black-billed magpie on snowy tree - kamloops - british columbia

Black-billed Magpies are impressive in stature being larger than Blue Jays and have splendid plumage.  Their white belly contrasts nicely with the solid black head and chest, and the wings and tail have a beautiful blue-green iridescence that is more noticeable when illuminated by bright sunshine.

black-billed magpie on snowy tree - kamloops - british columbia 2

The tail of a Black-billed Magpie is long with a diamond shape, and the birds have slender bodies.  When observed in flight, it seems that their wings appear too short to support their graceful movements.

black-billed magpie sitting in post - british columbia

Black-billed Magpies are one of only four North American songbirds with a tail that is equal to more than half the bird’s body length.

kamloops hillside in winter - british columbia

On that cold and snowy morning, it was no surprise to find several of the Magpies together.  Normally, in the winter, they will roost together for the night in one location, though each will seek its own tree, and on colder days, they will remain at the roosting site until later in the morning.  Their roosting site will either include dense trees or shrubs or thick conifers, all of which provide protection from the wind and predators.

black-billed magpie sitting in tree - british columbia

So, although our stay in Kamloops was brief, Bob and I felt blessed to have seen, not one, but several Black-billed Magpies.  Our day was off to a good start, and it was going to be another long one.  Our next destination was beautiful Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

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Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

2 comments

  • From Kamloops BC. A pair of Magpies have nested for at least 5 years in the hedges in the yard of the apartment complex I live in. The chicks have fledged out this week and have moved to the shrubs and grasses of the hillside. The parents are busier than ever, feeding the always demanding chicks.

    • Thank you for sharing that happy news with us. It is always a pleasure to witness the miracles of nature. This spring, we had a pair of American Robins nesting on our front porch. They laid 4 eggs, and we monitored the roosting until 3 of them hatched and until the babies fledged. It was so joyful to observe the whole process. We also see fledgling Northern Cardinals in our backyard. Happy birdwatching!