I saw a bird today that I was unfamiliar with and was hoping the Dope could help me identify it. I’m not a birder, but I spend a lot of time outdoors. This bird was new for me.
I saw the bird in the hills surrounding the SF Bay Area.
I saw the bird standing on the ground, not in flight.
The bird was just a little bit smaller than a crow (or about the size of a small crow).
The bird was solid black on top and solid white on the bottom.
With its wings folded, there was an oval white stripe on its wing running (approximately) parallel to the ground.
I saw 2 of these birds at once, and their markings didn’t seem to be very different from each other.
I didn’t notice any other colors on the bird.
I can’t really describe the bird’s beak, but I remember thinking “that’s not a raptor’s beak”. The beak also was not very long (like a hummingbird’s beak). It just looked “normal”.
Yes, I believe the black-billed magpie is the one. Some of the pictures on Wikipedia didn’t look quite right, but looking in Google Images produced a couple of pictures that looked identical to what I saw.
It’s very unlikely to be a Black-billed Magpie. That species is not normally found near San Francisco, but only on the eastern side of the Central Valley. The birds you saw were almost certainly Yellow-billed Magpies, a closely related species that only occurs in California. Yellow-bills are known to occur near San Francisco.