" We suggest that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they believe the birds find them attractive, while it goes unnoticed when magpies interact with less eye-catching items."
London, Aug 17 - The myth of the thieving magpie, which pervades European folklore, may not be true after all. A British study says magpies do not steal trinkets and are scared of shiny objects.

It is widely believed that magpies have a compulsive urge to steal sparkly things for their nests.

Exeter University scientists show the birds are actually nervous of such objects, presumably since they are novel and may prove dangerous, BBC reported.

During the study, a pile of shiny items (metal screws, small foil rings, and a small rectangular piece of aluminium foil), and a pile of the same objects covered with matt blue paint were involved.

Researchers placed mounds of edible nuts just 30cm from each of the collected objects.

In 64 tests during feeding, it was noticed that magpies picked up a shiny object only twice - and discarded it immediately. Also, the birds essentially ignored or avoided both shiny and blue objects, and often fed less when they were present.

Lead author Toni Shephard said: We did not find evidence of an unconditional attraction to shiny objects in magpies. Instead, all objects prompted responses indicating neophobia - fear of new things.

We suggest that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they believe the birds find them attractive, while it goes unnoticed when magpies interact with less eye-catching items.

It seems likely that the folklore surrounding them is a result of cultural generalisation and anecdotes rather than evidence.


comments powered by Disqus
Read more on:
 

PERMALINK

http://www.nerve.in/news:2535002396676
You can quote the permanent link above for a direct link to the story. We do not archive or expire our news stories.


STORY OPTIONS
  Email this story to a friend
  XML feed for Europe


 
COPYRIGHTS INFORMATION
All rights reserved for news content. Reproduction, storage or redistribution of Nerve content and articles in any medium is strictly prohibited.
Contact Nerve Staff for any feedback, corrections and omissions in news stories.
 

All rights reserved for the news content. Reproduction, storage or redistribution of Nerve content and articles in any medium is strictly prohibited.