Why Are Magpies Attracted to Shiny Things?

magpies-attracted-shiny-things Credit: Tony Hisgett/CC-BY-2.0

A 2014 study by the University of Exeter's Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour found that magpies are not attracted to shiny things. Contrary to popular belief, this member of the family Corvidae is afraid of and avoids unfamiliar objects.

Although folklore painted magpies as kleptomaniacs that compulsively steal shiny objects, the Exeter University study showed that magpies picked up shiny objects only twice in 64 tests. When researchers placed shiny objects near the birds' feeding piles, the birds became wary and distrustful. Magpies' bad reputation springs from anecdotal evidence, probably because people are more likely to notice birds interacting with unusual, shiny items than dull, everyday objects.