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Laboratory of Holly Ernest

Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed magpieYellow-billed Magpie and West Nile virus (Work completed)

Researchers: Holly Ernest, Scott Crosbie, Levi Souza, Lisa Dalbeck , Ben Harmeling, Leslie Woods, Bruce Hoar, and collaborators

The Yellow-billed Magpie’s range is limited to the Central Valley and Central Coast Ranges of California.  This California native bird suffered dramatic mortality from West Nile virus (WNV).  During 2004-2007 thousands of dead magpies were reported to California Department of Health Services WNV Dead Bird Surveillance Program.  During that time, of the >800 tested, on average approximately 80% tested positive for WNV, the highest WNV-positive percentage of all birds tested in California.


Effects of West Nile virus and Pathology in Yellow-billed Magpies.

Work of Holly Ernest, Leslie Woods, and Bruce Hoar.

Have the magpies lost genetic diversity and become inbred?  How are their populations structured?  See DNA research of Holly Ernest and collaborators.

Abundance and distribution of Yellow-billed Magpies see the work of Scott Crosbie

Habitat needs of Yellow-billed Magpies; field-collected data and computer modeling to describe the climate and vegetation types

Through collaborations with members of the Yellow-billed Magpie Working Group, the public through Magpie Monitor Program (2004-2010), California Department of Fish and Game, PRBO Conservation Science, The Audubon Society, and other agencies, organizations and ornithologists, we implemented studies to estimate their population size, loss of genetic diversity due to WNV, and viability over time.

Yellow-billed Magpie publications

  • Genetic sequence data reveals widespread sharing of Leucocytozoon lineages in corvids. In press. 2016. Freund D, SS Wheeler, AK. Townsend, WM Boyce, HB Ernest, C Cicero, RNM Sehgal.  Parasitology Research.
  • Our Yellow-billed Magpie research is featured in Yellow-billed Magpie account on Birds of North America Online
  • The first DNA markers specifically for Yellow-billed Magpies
    Ernest HB, Well JA, and J. Kurushima. 2008. Development of nine microsatellite loci for Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli) and corvid ecology and West Nile virus studies. Molecular Ecology Resources. 8:196 – 198
  • West Nile virus impact on Yellow-billed Magpie populations
    Crosbie SP, Koenig WD, Reisen WK, Kramer VL, Marcus L, Carney R, Pandolfino E, Bolen GM, Crosbie LR, Bell DA, Ernest HB. 2008. Early Impact of West Nile virus on the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli). The Auk- Journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union.125: 542–550.
  • Pathology of West Nile virus on Yellow-billed Magpies
    Ernest HB, Woods LW, Hoar BR. 2010. Pathology associated with West Nile Virus infections in the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli): a California endemic bird. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 46:401-408.


Related research publications

  • Estimating Western Scrub-Jay Density in California using multiple covariate distance sampling. Crosbie S, Souza LE, Ernest HB. In Press, The Condor 113(4).
  • Annual Survival of House Finches in relation to West Nile Virus. Pelligrini AR, Wright S, Reisen WK, Treiterer B, Ernest HB. 2011. The Condor 113(1) 233–238.
  • West Nile virus antibody surveillance in three Sierra Nevada raptors of conservation concern. Hull JM, Keane JJ, Tell LA, Ernest HB. 2010. The Condor. 112(1):168-172.
  • West Nile Virus Antibody Prevalence in Free-ranging California Raptors. Hull J.M., A. Hull, H.B. Ernest. 2006. The Condor. 108:435–439.