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Thieving Magpie

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"Other birds collect twigs for their nests. Magpies steal jewels for theirs."
Flavor Text for Thieving Magpie, Magic: The Gathering

An Animal Stereotype: Magpies (and by extension other corvids such as ravens and crows) have a compulsion to steal, particularly in regard to shiny things. A common plot is for something to go missing, accusations of theft to be thrown around at everyone in sight, and the magpie to be revealed as the culprit at the last minute.

This stereotype is based on the commonly held (though actually false) belief that magpies collect shiny objects to line their nests in order to attract a mate. What is true, however, is that magpies and other corvids are intelligent animals with an innate sense of curiosity, and they may carry off unfamiliar objects such as jewelry simply to examine them more closely. So it's easy to see how people might think this was like a small-scale version of a Dragon Hoard.

This stereotype has also provided a handy Animal Motif for the occasional fictional jewel thief (for when cats are too much of a cliché).


See also Magpies as Portents, which is about the association of certain numbers of magpies with bad (or sometimes good) luck and the rituals for warding the bad luck off. See Penny-Pinching Crab for more greedy animals.

Compare Pesky Pigeons, which have similar annoyances.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pokémon, crow Pokemon Murkrow has appeared sometimes looking for and snatching shiny objects, such as Ash's badges.
  • In an episode of Hamtaro, a crow took shiny things from Laura's classroom and the children started blaming each other.
  • In a filler Detective Conan case, a murder of crows find the case's murder weapon and take it to their nest. Conan, Ai and the Detective Kids have to retrieve it. At the end of the episode, the crows chase the kids around, still angry because they messed around with the nest.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • The story "The Castafiore Emerald" takes its plot resolution from La Gazza Ladra (see Opera below). The "Eureka!" Moment comes when Tintin hears that Bianca Castafiore, still missing her emerald, will be performing in said Rossini opera — sure enough, he finds the jewel in a magpie's nest.
    • In earlier episode "The Black Island", there's also a thieving magpie involved (but with a plot twist) when the firemen are desperately looking for their garage key.
  • A minor Batman villain is named Magpie for her kleptomania and the unfortunate birth name Margaret Pye.
  • Alluded to in Blacksad with Cotton, a blind magpie who's always dreamed of going to Las Vegas.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dick Tracy, Haf-and-Haf first appears using a murder of trained crows to steal handbags.
  • Lenore, Dethany's raven in On the Fast Track has a fondness for shiny things, including stealing people's keys.

    Fan Works 
  • In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines focused on Astrid, she's so distracted daydreaming about her eight Gym Badges and her plans after the Kalos league, a Murkrow comes and snatches her badge case. Fortunately, she manages to get it back.

    Film — Animated 

  • Discworld:
    • Quoth the Raven, a familiar of Death and friend to the Death of Rats, always pounces on shiny things in the vain hope that they might be eyeballs. He claims that this tendency is where his genus's reputation for thievery comes from.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, the vampyres' magpie mascots pinch Granny Weatherwax's gold-edged invitation to the naming of Verence and Magrat's baby. Cue Granny thinking she's been snubbed as she hasn't received her invitation, while everybody else in the kingdom has.
  • In the Arabian Nights tale "The Stolen Necklace", said necklace is actually stolen by a magpie, but a holy woman is unjustly accused.
  • Invoked in The Magic of Oz where Kiki Aru, having learned a transformative magic word, turns himself into a magpie in order to steal a piece of gold from an old man.
  • Alluded to in His Dark Materials — one of the parallel universes is colloquially referred to by the name of the only city the main characters ever visit, Cittegazze — "city of magpies". It's a kind of parasite pocket-universe heavily infested with Spectres, ghostly things that attack adults and steal their souls but leave children alone, which is why the city is by now a (pre-)Teenage Wasteland.
  • In Alethea Kontis's Enchanted, a set of pirates sent to deliver gifts are Magpie and Crow, about which there is the line, "Mama would no doubt describe them as dirty rotten scoundrels with eyes on the silver."
  • Daniel Handler's Adverbs features magpies throughout. In one story, a magpie steals a lost diamond from Handler's actual life and delivers it to a story written by another author entirely. He's a fairly odd bird himself.
  • Trader Mags of Guardians of Ga'Hoole and her assistant Bubbles have been known to collect artifacts and other stuff humans (or Others, as the owls call them) had left behind after they disappeared. Otulissa dislikes her because she is collecting trash... until she checks the stuff out in "The Shattering" and praises the magpie.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore uses this analogy when referring to young Tom Riddle (the boy who would become Voldemort) after a Pensieve Flashback. This helps him and Harry understand Voldemort's behavior since then, including his use of Soul Jars.
  • The Thinking Machine: In "The Rosewell Tiara'', Van Dusen investigates when a single diamond is stolen from a tiara inside a locked safe. The 'thief' turns out to be the owner's pet cockatoo, who has a penchant for shiny objects and who plucked out the diamond and swallowed it. How the safe came to be opened turns out to a completely separate mystery.
  • Firstborn: The magpie protagonist Maggie has husband who is an obsessive hoarder. It's one of the reasons she leaves him (and starts avoiding magpies in general).
  • A Plot Coupon in one of the Redwall books turns out to be in a magpie's nest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town", the Slitheen disguised as Margaret Blaine described the Doctor as having a "magpie mind", i.e., one that's always collecting bits of information.
  • In Elementary episode "Dead Clade Walking", Sherlock and Joan are trying to find a smuggler who deals in valuable but illegal artifacts. Said smuggler is called "the Magpie".
  • On Good Eats, Alton is explaining the connection between the word "pie" (as in, a black and white pattern found on birds such as magpies) and "pie" (as in, the food). A magpie steals a bunch of Noodle Implements from Alton for its nest outside.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has a "Thieving Magpie" card; whenever it deals damage to an opponent, you get to draw a card (representing something that the magpie picked up).
  • The "Freedom City" setting for Mutants & Masterminds has a Gentleman Thief named Magpie who can teleport, but never would he teleport into a building— he savors the challenge of breaking in the hard way. His power is used only for last-second escapes, and even then only if he can't vanish any other way.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Both normal and giant magpies were described in the Creature Catalog, a monster book for Basic/Expert/etc. D&D. Their stats made them weak in combat, but excellent filchers of unattended shiny objects; in effect, they were a potential hook for the DM to lure parties into other encounters, by having a magic item snatched up by this trope's embodiment and forcing them to pursue it.
    • In Third Edition, spellcasters with a raven Familiar gain a bonus on the Appraise skill, notably used to determine the value of shiny things.
  • The Blood Ravens chapter in Warhammer 40,000 received the Fan Nickname of "Bloody Magpies", as they have a startling amount of wargear that originally belonged to other chapters in their possession. Given a nod in one of the novels, where a visitor sees their trophy room and notes that it looks like a magpies' nest.
  • Classic Traveller, Double Adventure 2 Mission on Mithril. One of the animals on the planet Mithril is the calamander. Calamanders are scavengers and will steal small items of equipment from the PCs' ATV (such as important nuts or bolts), forcing the PCs to track them down in their warrens to retrieve the items.
  • Exists in the Highland Expansion for Talisman as a Follower. It allows the owner to take any loot drawn in an encounter first before dealing with anything else-normally, the player has to trigger any events drawn, kill any monsters, and deal with any strangers before getting the loot.


    Video Games 
  • One Summoning familiar in Runescape is the Magpie, which is useful for thieves. Its special ability can boost the player's thieving skill.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, there is a subquest to find a missing baby rattle, which turns out to be in a bird's nest.
  • The bird-like Kig-Yar (a.k.a. "Jackals") of Halo are directly compared to magpies as a whole for their thieving and pirating ways, with the Skirmisher subspecies being particularly attracted to shiny objects. Skirmishers also have large, black feathers adorning their arms and heads, unlike the other kig-yar with their sharp, quill-like feathers.
  • Murkrow and Honchkrow from Pokémon is sometimes depicted with this habit. They apparently even get into fights with Meowth over shiny treasure.
  • The Magpie symbol in Luck Be A Landlord will remove 1 coin from your total per turn...but also returns 9 coins every 4 turns. Perhaps it thieves from others?
  • Spiteful Crows in Earthbound can sometimes steal objects from Ness.
  • The Big Bad of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a giant magical crow named Wingo. He's the antagonist because he wants shiny power stars. His towers even have tons of treasure in them.
  • The Shrieker from Darkest Dungeon is a monstrous mutated corvid that will steal Trinkets from your inventory or dead heroes.
  • In World of Warcraft you can find a locked Merchant's Chest in Drustvar. To open it, you have to track down and kill the one Gorging Raven holding the key in a conspiracy of them overhead.

    Web Comics 
  • Blackwing, Vaarsuvius's raven familiar in The Order of the Stick, has a penchant for "baubles". It's mostly Played for Laughs, though at one point he does snag a useful ioun stone when he attacks an enemy psion.
  • In The Archer And The Squirrel a crow steals from Count Wylie and he sets out to kill the thief thinking it a human. When he discovers the crow in it's gold filled nest he orders the bird shot but it escapes.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "After the Rain", Anne finally learns that Hop Pop buried the "Calamity Box" for safekeeping instead of giving it to his alleged "contacts", but also discovers the Box has gone missing. While Anne fumes about Hop Pop lying to her and losing the box, Sprig and Polly try to find the box themselves, and discover it's been stolen by an insect called a "magpie beetle".
  • Heckle and Jeckle are two wise-cracking magpies who, by trait, con their way into getting whatever they need. They also make life miserable for two dogs, a lugubrious bloodhound (Dimwit) and a tough bulldog (unofficially named Chesty).
  • Occurred in an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog, where a crow snatched shiny things and kept them in his nest, leaving Clifford to get blamed for stealing.
  • The animated short Peck Pocketed is about a magpie stealing an old lady's belongings.
  • Stōked: In "To Catch a Reef", a thieving seagull causes Reef to be accused of being a thief.
  • Ruffles and his gang from Count Duckula.
  • One Mr. Bean The animated Series'' episode has one of these, and naturally Bean is framed for its theft.
  • One episode of Shaun the Sheep has the titular character dealing with one.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: One of Alfred's friends is a magpie named Pikkie ("Grabby"), who is actually compelled to steal anything shiny that he lays his eyes on, gaining Mind-Control Eyes in the process. This gets Alfred into a lot of trouble when Pikkie steals a crown jewel and Alfred ends up looking responsible. When the truth is revealed, the king pardons Pikkie since he couldn't help himself.
  • The Crumpets: In "Crumperchés", a magpie steals Cassandra's heart necklace and the key for the chains Marylin strapped himself with to a tree to protest its cutting.

    Real Life 
  • While it is certainly true that magpies, and corvids in general, have a well-deserved reputation as thieves, there is no evidence that they consistently prefer shiny objects over anything else. Nor do they line their nests with such objects to attract mates. They may regard jewelry and other shiny things with curiosity and fly off with them simply to examine them, but they do not collect them as a typical behavior.
  • In Australian Rules Football, Collingwood's nickname of "the Magpies" comes from both the club's colors of black and white, and the reputation of the Collingwood area at the time of the team's founding (and indeed, for decades thereafter): it was widely seen as the home of thieves and other criminals. It must be noted that Australian magpies are not corvids but members of a family called the cracidae, unrelated to European magpies (and they are not known for taking shiny objects so much as for divebombing passers-by who get too close to their nests).
  • Some bowerbirds are known to snatch up colorful or pretty objects to decorate their bowers. The famous satin bowerbird, for example, likes blue, shiny things.


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