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The Thieving Magpie?

A magpie’s more likely to grab your sandwich than your silver
© Claudine LaMothe View Large

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 thief was actually a magpie. The opera was so popular in its day that it’s believed to have helped cement the devious reputation of the magpie. But scientists at Exeter University put the perception to the test.

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BirdNote®

The Thieving Magpie?

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

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.

[Eurasian Magpie calls, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/109538981 ]

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.
 
Magpies are very curious, just like their relatives, the jays and crows. They may sometimes pick up shiny things, but they don’t show any preference for shiny over dull. A magpie’s more likely to grab your sandwich than your silver.

[Eurasian Magpie calls, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/109538981 ]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein

###
 
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Jay McGowan.
BirdNote’s theme music composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler; Managing Producer: Jason Saul; Editor: Ashley Ahearn; Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone; Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill.
© 2019 Tune In to Nature.org   April 2019   Narrator: Michael Stein
 
ID# PICPIC-01-2019-04-10    PICPIC-01

REFERENCES
http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=18449
http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150408-the-truth-about-magpies
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28797519

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