Thieving Magpies

La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) is a two act opera by Italian composer rossiniGioachino Rossini. The libretto by Giovanni Gherardini was based on the 1815 comedy La Pie Voleuse by JMT Badouin d’Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez. The story tells of a maid who almost goes to the gallows for stealing silver, before it is discovered that the culprit was a magpie, which had been thieving and hiding items in the church tower. via song

I’ve probably listened to Rossini’s, The Thieving Magpie overture, at least a hundred times or so and it never struck me to ask myself, or any innocent bystander – does a magpie actually thieve?

Evidently, their legendary attraction to shiny objects or ornaments about the yard or garden is based more on anecdotes and cultural generalizations than fact. Too bad, I rather liked the idea of these birds thieving.

But as I read just a few more droppings on the subject, I found the following:

There are several names given to a group of magpies, but perhaps the most descriptive is “a parliament.” The birds have earned this title as a result of their often appearing in large groups in the Spring, looking stately and cawing at each other. – via

“Appearing in large groups…looking stately and cawing at each other”.  Hmm, that aptly describes the group of thieves masquerading as present day politicians quite nicely.  But whereas magpies can evidently recognize themselves in a mirror, our politicians haven’t evolved beyond the birds enough to recognize themselves for the thieves they are.  “The honored senator”…”my esteemed colleague”, etc., a few of the fairy tale titles they bequeath upon each other as they caw at one another, and then at us, beaming with their snarky smiles.  I’ll take the magpie over these hooligans any day.

Rossini La Gazza Ladra Overture – WPH NJK  – Abbado


Photo credit (front page):  By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit (Rossini):  By UnknownGiorces (Self-photographed) [Public domain or CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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