Birds That Collect Shiny Objects: Magpies, Bowerbirds, And More

Birds collecting shiny objects is a fascinating behavior that many people have heard about but don’t fully understand. If you’ve ever wondered why certain bird species seem obsessed with gathering arbitrary trinkets, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Some birds like magpies and bowerbirds collect shiny objects to attract mates by decorating their nests or display areas. This behavior helps them show off and impress potential partners.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the different types of birds that exhibit this collecting behavior, look at some theories behind why they do it, and highlight cool examples of these birds gathering everything from spoons to bottle caps.

Birds That Collect Shiny Objects

Many bird species are known for their fascinating behaviors, and one particularly intriguing behavior is the collection of shiny objects. While it may seem unusual for birds to have an affinity for shiny things, there are several species that exhibit this behavior.

Some of the most well-known birds that collect shiny objects include Eurasian Magpies, Australian Magpies, and Bowerbirds.

Eurasian Magpies

Eurasian Magpies, scientifically known as Pica pica, are highly intelligent and visually striking birds found in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. These birds are not only known for their beautiful black and white plumage but also for their habit of collecting shiny objects.

They have a particular fascination with items that reflect light, such as coins, jewelry, and even tin foil. It is believed that their attraction to shiny objects is related to their instinctual desire to build nests with visually appealing materials.

Studies have shown that Eurasian Magpies’ interest in shiny objects is not purely aesthetic. These birds have been observed using shiny items as a form of social signaling, displaying them to potential mates or competitors.

Additionally, some researchers suggest that collecting shiny objects may serve as a form of cognitive stimulation for these intelligent birds.

Australian Magpies

Australian Magpies, known scientifically as Cracticus tibicen, are a common sight in Australia and are known for their beautiful singing and distinctive black and white plumage. These birds are also known to collect shiny objects, although their behavior differs slightly from that of Eurasian Magpies.

Australian Magpies are known to collect a variety of items, including coins, bottle caps, and even small toys. They often incorporate these shiny objects into their nests, using them as decorations or as a way to attract mates.

While the exact reason behind their fascination with shiny objects is not fully understood, it is thought to be related to their territorial behavior and their desire to create visually appealing nests.


Bowerbirds are a family of birds found primarily in Australia and New Guinea. These birds are famous for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve building intricate structures called bowers to attract mates.

As part of their courtship ritual, male bowerbirds collect a wide array of objects, including shiny items, feathers, leaves, and even colorful fruits.

Unlike magpies, bowerbirds do not collect shiny objects purely for their aesthetic value. Instead, these objects serve as a means of attracting females and showcasing the male’s creativity and resourcefulness.

The bowers themselves are meticulously decorated with these items, creating visually stunning displays that are unique to each individual bird.

Theories Behind the Behavior

There are several theories that attempt to explain why certain bird species have a peculiar fascination with collecting shiny objects. These theories shed light on the underlying reasons behind this behavior and provide valuable insights into the unique characteristics of birds such as magpies, bowerbirds, and more.

Sexual Selection

One widely accepted theory suggests that the behavior of collecting shiny objects is linked to sexual selection. In some bird species, males are known to build intricate nests or display various objects to attract potential mates.

The shiny objects serve as a visual signal of the male’s fitness and ability to provide for offspring. By showcasing their ability to find and collect shiny objects, these birds are essentially advertising their genetic quality to potential mates.

This theory is particularly relevant for species like the bowerbird, which is known for constructing elaborate and highly decorated bowers to impress females. These bowers are adorned with an assortment of shiny objects, including colorful feathers, shells, and even man-made items like bottle caps and coins.

The bowerbird’s dedication to collecting and arranging these objects showcases its creativity and resourcefulness, further enhancing its chances of attracting a mate.

Play Behavior

Another theory suggests that the behavior of collecting shiny objects may be driven by play behavior. Just like humans, some birds engage in playful activities for enjoyment and mental stimulation. Collecting shiny objects could be a form of play for these birds, allowing them to engage their curious nature and exercise their problem-solving skills.

Magpies, for example, are notorious collectors of shiny objects. They have been observed swooping down to pick up anything that catches their eye, from jewelry to pieces of aluminum foil. It is believed that this behavior is not solely driven by a practical need but also a desire for entertainment and mental stimulation.


Lastly, some experts argue that the behavior of collecting shiny objects may be instinctual in certain bird species. Birds have a natural inclination to collect and hoard objects for various reasons, such as building nests or acquiring food.

The shiny objects may trigger an instinctive response in these birds, compelling them to collect and store them for future use.

While there is still much to learn about the exact mechanisms behind this behavior, it is clear that birds like magpies and bowerbirds have a unique fascination with shiny objects. Whether driven by sexual selection, play behavior, or instinct, their behavior provides a fascinating glimpse into the complex world of avian behavior.

Notable Examples of Bird Collections

The Magpie and the Spoon

One of the most well-known examples of birds collecting shiny objects is the magpie. Magpies are known for their attraction to shiny items, particularly spoons. These intelligent birds have a reputation for swooping down and snatching up anything that catches their eye, including jewelry, coins, and even keys.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories of magpies stealing shiny objects from people’s gardens or outdoor areas.

The Bowerbird and the Bottle Caps

The bowerbird is another fascinating bird species that has a penchant for collecting shiny objects. Unlike the magpie, the bowerbird doesn’t collect items for personal adornment but rather to attract a mate.

Male bowerbirds create intricate and elaborate nests, known as bowers, and decorate them with an assortment of colorful and shiny objects. These objects can include bottle caps, feathers, shells, and even bits of glass.

The male bowerbird meticulously arranges these items in a way that will impress the female bowerbirds during courtship.

Blue Tits Stealing Golf Balls

While not as well-known as magpies or bowerbirds, blue tits have also been observed collecting shiny objects. In some cases, blue tits have been known to steal golf balls from courses. These small, colorful birds are attracted to the bright white color of the golf balls and may mistake them for eggs.

The blue tits then fly away with the golf balls, potentially causing confusion for golfers who find their balls missing. This behavior has become a somewhat amusing occurrence on certain golf courses, with players jokingly blaming “birdie theft” for their lost balls.

While these examples highlight some of the more notable instances of birds collecting shiny objects, it’s important to note that not all birds exhibit this behavior. The reasons behind why some birds collect shiny objects are still being studied by researchers, but it’s believed to be related to their natural instincts, such as attracting mates or foraging for food.

Impact on Humans

Missing Shiny Objects

For many people, losing a shiny object can be a frustrating experience. And when birds like magpies and bowerbirds are involved, it can be quite common. These birds have a natural affinity for collecting shiny objects, often taking them from gardens, outdoor spaces, and even from people’s homes.

While it may be entertaining to watch a magpie swoop down and grab a shiny trinket, it can also be disheartening to realize that your favorite piece of jewelry has gone missing.

Magpies, in particular, are notorious for their habit of stealing shiny objects. Their attraction to bright and reflective items is thought to be related to their nest-building behavior. Male magpies use shiny objects to attract mates and decorate their nests, while female magpies are known to collect shiny objects as well.

This behavior can sometimes lead to conflicts between birds and humans, as people try to protect their belongings from being taken by these clever creatures.

Ecosystem Benefits

While it may be frustrating for humans to have their shiny objects taken by birds, it’s important to remember that these behaviors have a purpose in the natural world. Birds like magpies and bowerbirds are known as “collectors” or “decorators” because they collect and display objects in their nests or bowers to attract mates.

This behavior has actually been shown to have positive effects on the ecosystem. For example, bowerbirds play an important role in seed dispersal. As they collect objects, they inadvertently transport seeds from one location to another, helping to spread plant species and promote biodiversity.

Additionally, their nest-building activities can create habitat for other organisms, such as insects and small mammals.

While it can be frustrating to have a shiny object go missing, it’s important to recognize the valuable role that birds like magpies and bowerbirds play in the natural world. Their behavior not only adds beauty to their surroundings but also contributes to the overall health and balance of ecosystems.


In the end, a magpie collecting a shiny spoon or a bowerbird gathering blue bottle caps may look like random bird mischief to us. But to them, these objects serve important purposes in attracting mates and propagating their species.

Next time you spot a bird absconding with an arbitrary but eye-catching item, remember they have their reasons! Studying these fascinating collecting behaviors gives us a window into the lives of our feathered friends.

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