We were driving back from central California when we stopped at the rest stop near Camp Roberts on U.S. Route 101. The Yellow-billed Magpie is consistently found at this particular rest stop and our visit there was no exception. We had only been there for a few minutes when 4 or 5 of these handsome birds flew in and began feeding in the leaf litter under the large, spreading oaks.
Yellow-billed Magpie is an endemic species in California, meaning they are found no place else on the planet besides this state. They are big, beautiful and intelligent members of the family Corvidae, which includes all crows, ravens and jays worldwide. As such, they are often pretty skittish and seldom allow close approach. At this rest stop, however, they are far more used to being around people, which means they are easier to photograph. Even so, we chose to digiscope them because at the greater distance involved with this technique, the birds are more relaxed and act naturally in our presence. This video was taken with a Nikon CoolPix P300 digital camera attached to a Kowa TSN-883 spotting scope.
Notice also how much yellow skin these magpies show around the face. The amount of yellow facial skin shown by a Yellow-billed Magpie varies with the individual and with the state of molt. In our experience, the magpies at this particular site show more yellow than those anywhere else we’ve been.
(If the video doesn’t load properly, try refreshing the screen and then retry. We’re seeing this a lot lately.)