photos and article by Charly Mann
The Oklahoma panhandle is home to many marvelous animals that are only found in that part of the state, including the world's fastest land mammal, the Pronghorn Antelope. It is also here that you will find the Black-Billed Magpie. I have seen these birds land on the backs of the pronghorn antelope to eat ticks off their back.
At about nine months a Black-Billed Magpie takes a partner that they will mate with for life. In the wild the male typically lives two and a half years, while females live for three. In captivity they have survived for as long as twenty years. They are members of the crow family. The Black-Billed Magpie is unique among birds in that it uses its sense of smell as much as its vision to locate food. They are very intelligent birds and can often be seen turning over cow patties to look for insects. Like Mockingbirds they can imitate the calls of other birds.
The Black-Billed Magpie has a very long tail. They are black on their head, breast, of most of their back. It has white on its stomach, on the sides of its back, and underneath its wings. Most of its tail is a gorgeous blue-green color. Black-Billed Magpies seem to grieve their fallen comrades. They will often sit on fences or tree branches in large gatherings near a dead magpie, and one by one fly down and walk around the dead bird while crying out.
Black-Billed Magpies are about 23 inches in length and have a wingspan of nearly two feet.