At first, I thought a tangle of branches and twigs in a poplar near our house was litter that accumulated over the winter. However, every time I came near, black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia) flew away. We have a magpie nest!!
Magpies are common around our house and are believed to return to near where they were hatched, however Leonard and I never observed a magpie nest in our yard before.
The male and female chose their nest site together and both work on constructing the domed nest with a hidden side entrance. The male gathers the exterior sticks while the female builds a mud cup on the interior and lines it with grass. The nest varies widely in size with an average height of 30″ and an average width of 20″. The nest takes a long time to build – forty days or more.
One to nine tan to olive-brown eggs with variable amounts of dark speckling are incubated for 16 to 19 days. The naked, pink chicks are helpless at birth. The eyes do not open for seven days. After 24 to 30 days the youngsters are ready to fledge.
As the tree leafs out it will be more difficult to watch the nest, but Leonard and I are happy to be “grandparenting” a magpie family.
More information about the black-billed magpie can be found in my post “Black-billed Magpie” from 02-08-2012.