Because I personally like shiny objects (beads), I always assumed the stories about crows and magpies stealing shiny things were true! Imagine my surprise when I learned that wild crows and magpies do not like, nor collect shiny objects. They do not hide, store, or cache anything but food. As it turns out, it appears the stories of crows and magpies taking shiny objects come from people's experiences with captive, hand-raised young birds.
But in the process of investigating this issue, I had some fun with the idea that we are 'projecting' our fascination with shiny things onto birds. I took a writeup on what crows (and perhaps magpies) DO do with shiny things, and substituted "Bead Lover" for the word "Crow" or "Magpie", and the word "Beads" for various items mentioned, just to see what I would come up with. Here's how it turned out.
(Note: The cool illustrations of the Magpie with his treasures (above and below) are from a book called More by I.C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies. Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2012. ISBN: 978-0547610832 - See more at: http://32pages.ca/2012/03/25/the-bird-hoarder/#sthash.FPueEdnU.dpuf)
Bead Lovers are very investigative, and love to handle beads. They like to pick them up, peck at them, and then hide them. Most Bead Lovers hide beads for later retrieval (some are extreme, hiding and remembering thousands and thousands of beads). Juvenile Bead Lovers "play" with beads, picking them up, pecking them, and eventually hiding them. (Play is just doing appropriate actions with inappropriate objects, just like children playing house.) In the wild, Bead Lovers would play with sticks, stones, acorn caps, and things like that. In captivity, they will do the same thing to just about anything small and portable, and they may be attracted to beads and other shiny things, like keys, coins, or the like. Most Bead Lovers are "scatter hoarders" and hide only one or a few things in any one location (rather than being "larder hoarders" that store everything in one place, like a packrat). So if a Bead Lover you know stole and hid your favorite beads, don't expect to find them in the same place that you find your diamond ring.
Bead Lovers play with all sorts of beads they find, and chances are if something is glinting, they may be more likely to explore that object (just like how you might notice something glinting in the grass and investigate it), than something that blends in to the background. Are they particularly attracted to shiny objects, or obsessed with them? It may be that they are just more likely than other people to find them because such things are easier to see/attract attention (think about how advertisers use shiny and bright things on other humans to attract their attention). Some particularly neurotic adult Bead Lovers are more likely to be terrified of brightly colored or shiny beads unless heavily associated with food on multiple occasions.
Second, a lot of observations about Bead Lovers playing with beads come from people who have tamed Bead Lovers, especially those who don't live in the wild. A Bead Lover with access to a craft fair, for example, is going to have a lot of exposure to beads, and will therefore play with those objects. They may be attracted to what other Bead Lovers are attracted to, and therefore be more interested in shiny things like rhinestone beads, marcasite, diamond beads, etc., for the reason that they are of high value to their "family" of Bead Lovers -- not just because they are shiny objects.
Third, it is likely that the shiny or bright beads simply remind the Bead Lovers of food, or the Bead Lovers are investigating them for potential food opportunities. The going theory for why Bead Lovers are so attracted to Mookaite is that they look an awful lot like delicious chocolate. I have personally watched Bead Lovers play with and steal Mookaite off a cruise ship buffet (which was hilarious). However, they lose interest pretty fast after, presumably, realizing the objects aren’t food (though I swear some of the Bead Lovers had a blast just chasing those beads around).
There are a number of reasons why Bead Lovers may be attracted to shiny or bright objects and trinkets, but no more so than you or I or most animals would be attracted to them. In other words, their interest in shiny objects does not appear to be inordinate.
So, do Bead Lovers hoard the objects they find? No.
Bead Lovers don’t hoard anything. If a Bead Lover takes off with your highly prized Herkimer diamond beads, it was likely that the Bead Lover wasn’t done exploring them for any food opportunities and took off with them to finish its inquiry in safety (and probably dropped them somewhere when it realized it had no use for the beads). Bead Lovers do cache items, which means that they store them for later. Bead Lovers are scatter cachers and leave beads all over the place within their territory (I once watched a Bead Lover pull a strand of Turkish Evil Eye beads out of the branches of a spruce tree...I still have NO idea where he was keeping it in there, but it was pretty hilarious to watch). So there is no secret hoard full of shiny objects to find in a Bead Lover's territory.
What about the "nests" (beds) of Bead Lovers? Well, Bead Lovers normally don’t use their beds for anything but sleeping. You may wonder if Bead Lovers might put shiny beads in the bed to attract attention from potential mates, but Bead Lovers have selected mates far before they make their beds.
It might be especially interesting to study the Bead Lovers' caching behaviors of food, since for many Bead Lovers, these are the most valued treasures. In urban/suburban environments I’ve seen them cache everything from seeds to ham sandwiches, pizza, and french fries. It might be fun to explore the wide and variable diets of Bead Lovers.
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy our previous posts Funny Bead Story and the Mini-Series 'The Fish and the Stone: A Fable for Gem Connoisseurs'The Fish and the Stone: A Fable for Gem Connoisseurs'.
Until Next Time,