Energetic costs of nest construction are difficult to estimate for birds, and currently estimates are available for only a handful of species. In this paper, I estimate the minimum cost of nest construction by a pair of Black-billed Magpies (Pica hudsonia). Data on the number of sticks and mud pellets comprising a nest were used to determine the minimum number of trips required to construct the nest, and were combined with information on distances to the nearest sources of nesting materials, data on flight speeds, and bird morphometric measures to estimate costs of transporting nesting materials. For the Black-billed Magpie pair I observed, nest construction required a minimum of 2564 trips for nesting materials, 276.2 km of commuting, 8.4 h of flight, and cost 209.1 kJ. Spreading this cost over the 40 d required to build the nest yields an estimate of 2.61 kJ/adult/day. I compared this value to published estimates of daily metabolizable energy intake for Black-billed Magpies, and calculated that breeding adults would need to increase their daily intake between 0.7% and 1.0% to cover the energetic costs of nest construction. In contrast, egg laying is estimated to require a full 23% of the daily energy expenditure of female magpies. These values suggest the energetic cost of nest building in Black-billed Magpies is relatively insignificant.
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Vol. 73 • No. 3