basic information

Black-Billed Magpie

Pica pica (Linnaeus, 1758)

Сорока | Сауысқан

Kurty river, Almaty region
© Vassiliy Fedorenko


The Black-billed Magpie is well known bird having contrast black and white coloring and the long strongly graduated tail which is fan-shaped in flight. The adult male and female are similar. The head, back, wing coverts, tail and tarsus feathers are velvet-black with metallic gloss (especially on the tail) of purple, blue and green tones. The belly, flanks, rump and shoulders are clear white. The primaries are; the narrow outer webs are black-grey, the inner ones are white with grey edge on terminal part and on base. The secondaries are black with expressive green-blue metallic gloss. The underwings are black-brownish. The tail is long, graduated, slaty-black below and with bright green and purple metallic gloss above, especially well expressive on males. All plumage is soft and dense. The bill and legs are black. The eyes are dark-brown. Juveniles distinguish by the loose plumage without metallic gloss and with appreciable brownish tinge. The first primary is longer and broader than in adults. Weight 195-314 grams, wing 188-218, tail 222-309 mm.


The Black-billed Magpie in Kazakhstan breeds throughout excluding waterless deserts and semi-deserts. The detailed distribution in Kazakhstan please see in the chapter "Subspecies".


The Black-billed Magpie is a common, in places numerous, resident. It inhabits forests of various types (prefers forest edge close to open areas); groves, gardens, forest-belts and shrubby thickets on plains and in mountains up to 2600 m in Tien Shan and 1500 m in Altai, often not far from water source. Rarely lives in towns and big villages with trees. During winter sheep farms, stubble fields and scrap heaps are also visited. Most time of the year it occurs in small groups, in exceptional cases numbering up to 200 individuals. In spring, new pairs form from the end of February to March. The Black-billed Magpie breeds in separate pairs at 75-700 m one from another. Nests are built at 0.8 to 22 m up in a tree (birch, pine, willow, poplar, hawthorn, apple tree, elm, asp, Russian olive) or at 0.7-4.5 m from ground in bush (honeysuckle, dog-rose, buck thorn, tamarisk). The spherical nest is built of twigs and soil mixed with grass, rootlets and small twigs, and lined with dry grass and rootlets. Both partners take part in the process of building the first nest for 25 to 30 days, and from 8 to 17 days building the later ones. Clutches of 4-8 eggs are made from end of March to late May. Only female incubates over 17-19 days, while male feeds her. Juveniles are brought up by both parents and fledge at 22-24 days, from mid May to early July. Second breeding attempt takes place in case of nest loss. The long breeding period can be explained by phenological differences between southern and northern areas, and between plains and mountains. Broods disperse in June – mid August. Autumn and winter movements are on local scale.


Pica pica pica (Linnaeus, 1758)

    Description. White color on the primaries and on the rump is less extensive than in bactriana. The primaries tips (including the tips of the inner webs) are always black. Inner secondaries usually have a dark blue sheen.
    Distribution. Probably breeds in Volga-Ural territory.

Pica pica bactriana (Bonaparte, 1850)

    Description. White color on the primaries and on the rump is more developed than in pica. A gradual cline of variability indicates a reduction of black and an increase of white on primary webs eastwards across Kazakhstan: in the majority of western birds the primary tips (including the ends of the inner webs) are black, whereas further east (e.g. Tien Shan) many birds have white tips on inner webs of primary feathers. Inner secondaries usually have a dark blue sheen.
    Distribution. Breeds on all other parts of flat Kazakhstan and in mountains excepting Volga-Ural territory.


Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005. Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999. В.К.Рябицев. "Птицы Урала, Приуралья и Западной Сибири". Екатеринбург, Изд-во Уральского университета, 2000.



Pica pica pica
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Pica pica bactriana
(Bonaparte, 1850)

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unidentified birds


Сергей Л. Волков: Не сверчок. У "свежих" камышевок подхвостье бывает очень длинное.


Сергей Л. Волков: У птицы короткий задний коготь. Она не из желтых трясогузок. Я бы еще пару-тройку ее снимков глянул.


Сергей Л. Волков: Зеленая пеночка.

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