Rossini’s 1815 opera, The Thieving Magpie tells of a household maid who nearly goes to the gallows for stealing silver from her employers. At the last instant, it’s revealed that the silver thief was actually a magpie that had been hiding items in the church tower.
The opera was so popular in its day that it’s believed to have helped cement the devious reputation of the magpie. Today, it “seems” common knowledge that the Eurasian Magpie is, by nature, drawn to snatch up and fly off with shiny things.
But scientists at Exeter University put the perception to the test. They placed food alongside shiny and painted objects and then waited for the magpies to come investigate. The result? The opposite of what everybody expected: The magpies were much more cautious around novel, flashy objects—and less likely to approach the food.
Us humans giving the magpie this story makes me wonder, does the myth of the magpie apply to humanity? Time to put it to the test.. Are we going to give old furniture pieces back it’s value when there is a shiny part attached?