Magpies have lived in close association with humans for centuries. They are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and are a common bird of tales and superstitions. Description Included in the bird family Corvidae along with crows, ravens, and jackdaws, magpies are found across the world. One of only two types in North America, the American magpie -- otherwise known as the black-billed magpie -- is infamous for troubling both farmers and gardeners. Magpies are known to be incredibly intelligent as they learn quickly, can mimic human speech, and utilize teamwork to collect food. Appearance While other types of magpies have an exotic coloration and display eye-catching patterns, the magpies native to North America are typically black and white. Black-billed magpies are black and white with blue-green tinted feathers. The California native yellow-billed magpie, the only other North American species, is almost identical to its black-billed cousin. These large birds can grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) lengthwise and weigh about half a pound (210 g). Magpie tails are another distinguishing feature as they are typically at least half of the length of the bird. Habitat Residents who live next to open spaces or in the country, especially near sources of water and food, can expect magpie activity. The birds enjoy the protective qualities of thickets and trees, though both cities and suburbs report magpie activity. Typically, magpies stay away from extreme climates and prefer dry, cool temperatures prevalent in western lands around the Rocky Mountains. Their range includes southern Alaska down through western parts of Canada and the U.S. Entry Are magpies known to enter homes or yards? Magpies prefer to nest high in trees and in tall shrubs. For the most part, magpies do not take up residence inside human homes and only venture inside if they cannot find food or water elsewhere. Damage Do magpies harm people or property? Gardeners and farmers endure most of the trouble caused by magpies. Low food supplies push the pests into more accommodating areas, where the omnivorous birds eat a range of food including grubs, seeds, and various crops. Farmers regularly report magpies as the culprits behind the loss of small chickens and eggs, as well as damage to crops like almonds and cherries. Magpies also terrorize livestock populations by picking at open wounds and scabs on the animals, which can lead to life-threatening infections. Additionally, magpies are known to peck out the eyes of newborn and sick livestock. Control and Safety Some forms of netting may prevent magpies from accessing crops and livestock, though the prevention method is expensive and labor-intensive. While considered nuisances, magpies can benefit farmers by eating insects and other pests that threaten crop health. They normally cohabitate peacefully with humans and, unless threatened by hunting or unwanted attention, magpies will attempt to go about their business unnoticed. Trapping and Removal Some methods of magpie control involve conditioning the birds to stay away from farms and otherwise inviting areas with the introduction of frightening sounds or undesirable scents. As these methods of removal are not always efficient at keeping magpies away, residents of infested areas should contact Critter Control specialists. Our wildlife professionals humanely remove infestations and develop integrated pest management strategies to keep magpie problems at bay. We can help you get rid of magpie problems. Call today: 1.800.274.8837.