Magpies, black-and-white birds which for generations have been known as jewellery thieves, are in fact wary of shiny objects, a myth-busting study has claimed.
In a series of experiments, British animal behaviourists found that, far from being kleptomaniacs, the birds were in fact fearful of unknown objects, AFP reports from Paris.
The team had arranged a selection of objects, shiny and dull, at different sites on the University of Exeter campus and observed the reaction of wild and captive magpies. Items included metal screws and foil rings – half of them painted blue with matt paint and the rest left shiny – and a piece of aluminium foil, with piles of nuts in between.
“Magpies only made contact with a shiny object twice in 64 tests,” a university statement said of the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition. “Both times a silver ring was picked up and immediately discarded.”