The Case of the Avian Thief

The Case of the Avian Thief

In the annals of crime one of the most unusual cases recorded was that of a bird that unwittingly succumbed to a life of thievery. This series of events occurred in 1938 in Chicago and left the reputation of the city temporarily tarnished.

A Chicago woman produced her own light—fingered mobster by patiently training her pet magpie to fetch shiny objects and bring them to her. Thus was launched the bird's career in crime. Residents of neighboring apartments reported missing jewelry almost daily to the police. The crimes were a real stumper. None of the victims could prove that their homes had been broken into, since doors were always locked and intact. Since their windows were several stories above the street, it appeared impossible for a thief to have entered from there. Still the thefts continued, and the police remained baffled.

Then one afternoon a potential victim stayed home from work with a touch of flu. She opened the window to let in fresh air and returned to bed. Rest was not to come easily, for as she lay abed gazing aimlessly, she was startled to see a magpie fly in through her open window. The woman watched, fascinated, as the bird flew around the room and settled on her dresser, where a diamond ring lay brilliantly reflecting the sunlight. Without hesitation the magpie seized the ring in its beak and flew out the open window.

Forgetting that she was supposed to be sick, the woman ran to the window and watched the bird fly into the window of an apartment almost directly across the street. She called the police without delay and was eventually able to convince them that her fever had not caused her to hallucinate.

Although hesitant, the police "raided" the culprit's den. They were quite surprised at the rich store of stolen jewels the raid uncovered. The magpie's owner was promptly arrested and drew a stiff prison sentence. As for the thieving bird, it made its "getaway" by flying out the open window shortly after the police entered and found the loot. They could only watch helplessly as the bird flew off into the sunset. To be sure, they had caught the real criminal, for the robberies had ceased.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth