You know, there used to be a time when you made a Stuckey’s stop and would be surprised to find a working indoor beehive or a talking myna bird greeting you at the door. After trying out one of the talking birds in his own Eastman, Georgia, Stuckey’s location, Mr. Stuckey saw that the gimmick was a real crowd-pleaser, and consequently, you could find birds or bees in nearly every Stuckey’s location around the country.

Nevertheless, a competitor of Stuckey’s later borrowed the idea of the indoor beehive and, as it often goes, once a novelty wears off, well, you have to move on to something new. Today the only sign of bees you’ll find in a Stuckey’s will probably be in our honey roasted pecans and cashews or the assorted flavors of Stuckey’s Pecan Honey Butter.

Meanwhile, some ornery kids reportedly taught Corky (the Stuckey’s Eastman myna bird) some bad words and Corky was banned from the store as a result. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a talking bird in Stuckey’s anyway because of today’s government regulations regarding pets and sanitary concerns.

However, there is a bird – you probably know it as the dunking bird or the dippy bird or the drinking bird – that you can still see in nearly every Stuckey’s location around the nation. It doesn’t say much. As a matter of fact, it just kind of bobs its head up and down and drinks all day. And it’s this bird that is the subject of today’s Stuckey’s Pecan Blog post.

What’s a Dippy Bird?

(Though it goes by different names, we’re just going to call it the dippy bird to avoid any confusion.)

Now then, the dippy bird is made of two glass bulbs – one with a beak for as its “head” and one with tail feathers for the “body”. The two bulbs are joined together by a glass tube that acts as the birds “neck” (because, if you’ve ever seen this bird, you’d know it really likes to take long drinks.)

He pivots between his two plastic legs and sports a rather dapper felt hat on top of his head.  At first, it just kind of stares at you…That is until you soak his head in water and set a drink in front of it because that’s when, all of a sudden, he’ll start drinking from the glass as if by magic.

But it’s not magic – its science and we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s take a minute to look at the history of the drinking bird.

The drinking bird has its roots in America through none other than Founding Father and scientist Benjamin Franklin.  Once, while in Germany, Franklin saw an invention that the artisans there called the “pulse hammer”. He brought it back to America and improved upon it; Franklin took two glass bulbs and connected them with a U-shaped tube. He then filled one bulb with water in balance with its own vapor and the other bulb he left empty.

“Franklin, what’s all this we hear about you making a glass bird that can drink water? What sort of wizardry is that?”

When he held the half filled water in his hand, the water would flow into the other empty bulb.  Franklin’s version of the pulse hammer wowed people for nearly one hundred years until 1872, when the Italian physicist and engineer Enrico Bernardi combined three of Franklin tubes to build what would eventually become the drinking bird.

This bird made its way to back America in where it was patented by Miles V. Sullivan who, at the time was an inventor and chemist working for Bell (as in Alexander Graham Bell) Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.  Incidentally, Mr. Sullivan died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the age of 98 in 2016. According to his obituary, President Herbert Hoover had one of Mr. Sullivan’s birds on his desk in the Oval Office. Even Albert Einstein lost sleep trying to figure out the bird worked, eventually taking it apart to find the answer.

Miles V. Sullivan with his Lucky Drinking Bird

So, How Does It Work?

Well, first you’ll notice liquid (methyl chloride dyed blue or red) in the “abdomen” of the bird. That’s what brings the bird to life.

Next , you want to dip the head of the bird into water and get his felt hat all wet. As the water starts to evaporate from the felt, it cools the bird’s head down. This temperature decrease in the head condenses the methyl chloride vapor, decreasing the vapor pressure in the head relative to the vapor pressure in the abdomen. The greater vapor pressure in the abdomen forces fluid up through the neck and into the head. As fluid enters the head, it makes the Dippy Bird top-heavy.

The bird tips. Liquid travels to the head. The bottom of the tube is no longer submerged in liquid. Vapor bubbles travel through the tube and into the head. Liquid drains from the head, displaced by the bubbles. Fluid drains back into the abdomen, making the bird bottom-heavy. The bird tips back up.

If the bird dips into a cup of water, the fuzzy material absorbs water again and the cycle starts over.

Celebrity Sightings

So, by now you might be thinking: “Oh, yeah! I remember that bird, but where have I seen it before?”

Well, drinking birds have become kind of cultural celebrities in their own right have appeared alongside Tweety and Sylvester in the 1951 Merrie Melodies cartoon Putty Tat Trouble, the Cartoon Network’s Ed, Edd n Eddy and The Simpsons.

They’ve also had minor cameo appearances in Mad Men and Aliens 2 and Aliens 3.

Episode 508 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 features a spoof of the dippy bird called the Bobbing Buzzard, which runs on carrion instead of water.

Finally, you may remember seeing them during one of the Stuckey’s stops you made on your family road trips; as a matter of fact, you can still find them at your nearest Stuckey’s location today.

So, the next time you stop in for one of our world famous Stuckey’s pecan log rolls, go pick up a dippy bird and amaze your friends, family and colleagues back home.

And speaking of being amazed, don’t forget that next Sunday is Easter and what kid (and kid at heart) wouldn’t love to wake up Easter morning and find the amazing Stuckey’s “Kids Fun” Easter Basket waiting for them? The basket includes a 2 oz. pecan log roll, a wooden train whistle, a Magic Ink Fun Book, a bag of jelly beans, a bag of lemon drops, a bag of flavored popcorn and a Stuckey’s Gift Tin.

Visit our website and shop for this gift box and other Stuckey’s merchandise today including our retro-themed hats, t-shirts and mugs. Go to stuckeys.com today and get it delivered right to your door!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!