remember those "drinking" bird toys?

Anybody else remember those toy “drinking” birds from the seventies? They were glass with a long neck and a little pot belly filled with a mysterious red or green chemical. They were also rakishly bedecked in a nifty top hat (presumibly to show that they were prepared for a night out on the town) and when you placed them in front of a glass of water the things would bob up and down “drinking” for weeks on end.

Granted I was only mere slip of an Inky at the time, but I didtinctly remember these things. Any idea what the chemical was and how they worked (I’ve lost sleep wondering about such things).


The chemical was coloured water. They worked after you wet their heads and started them tipping. Evaporation of the water from their porous heads would create a partial vaccuum which would pull the coloured water from the “belly” up the tube of their “necks.” This changed their centre of balance and gave the extra kick needed to tip further. Eventually the amount of water in the tube lowered the level in the belly. The bottom of the tube would break the surface, air would be introduced into the tube, the coloured water would gurgle back into the belly, and the process would begin again. If you can picture what I mean.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
Homo vult decipi; decipiatur

The mysterious chemical was food coloring in homogenous dihydrogen oxide suspension.

They’re not gone, either, Inky. I’m sure you can get such things from either the Johnson Smith Company or perhaps The Anatomical Chart Company.

No, they’re not gone, and as I sit wasting my boss’s time, my drinking bird is happily slurping out of a Pyrex beaker.

Dr. Fidelius has the evaporation part right, but the liquid inside is certainly NOT water (or dihydrogenated oxyacetylene, whatever). If I lovingly cup my drinking birds’ lower bulb in the palm of my hand, allowing a good transfer of heat, the red liquid inside will force its way up the tube, until ALL the liquid is out of the bulb. It seems to defy gravity, just a column of red liquid gurgling as it tries to run back out into the bulb. Try this at home with water. What happens? Pretty boring, huh?

My bet for the liquid is Freon ™ or something like it for the ozone-friendly '90’s.

My version of How It Works: The birds wet head is cooler than his tail (water evaporation). The non-liquid-filled parts of the bird are filled with the highly volitile red liquid (Freon?) in its gaseous phase. The cool gas at the top shrinks (ideal gas law) and the system tries to equilibrate pressure by forcing liquid up the tube. Eventually, as the good Dr. says, the bird goes off balance and the liquid and gas are allowed to equilibrate physically by changing places.

The whole thing is a heat engine with external water as the main source of heat differential. Water inside the system won’t work.

The fluid is most likely methylene chloride.

Eddie the K was right, the mystery liquid is in fact freon 11 and they are still available from the good folks at Edmond Scientific (while supplies last!) $7.99.

It’s the same stuff (freon?) in those things you hold in your hand and the stuff flows up a little spiral tube. The stuff is very sensative to heat. The cup of water is cool, and cools the liquid, forcing it down into the bird’s belly. When the bird stands upright, the room temp. heats it back up, flows into the head, makes it top heavy, and the bird bows, and the water makes it cool again.

really quite nifty.

From the “seventies”? Hell, I remember them from the early sixties at least (I won’t admit to any further back than that).

check out the online auctions… I have seen them at both yahoo and ebay for 9.99… and how they work?

thermal dynamics my friend!!! I’ll let the others explain… you see… I am just way to busy… LOL

The wisest man I ever knew taught me something I never forgot. And although I never forgot it, I never quite memorized it either. So what I’m left with is the memory of having learned
something very wise that I can’t quite remember. -George Carlin

“IT’S DRINKING THE WATER! This will make a million dollars! Heh heh heh… it’s coming back for more…”

Never let an opportunity to quote the Simpsons pass.

I’d like to take a moment to mention that whatever that stuff inside the dippy birds is it stains miserably. I know from experience.

Creepy Girl

Oh yes,I remember them fondly. My dad went in for stuff like that. Especially the one of an outhouse,where you put a coin in, and the guy turns around and pees on you!

awldune – don’t forget the episode where Homer delegated the task to the bird of repeatedly typing “Y” so he could take a much needed break from his telecommuting job.

Are you all talking about this…

An evil person is someone that knows how to escape a deserved punishment. A good person is someone that accepts other’s punishments.
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Give someone an F.U.

Louie deserves the Straight Dope “One Animated Gif is Worth a Thousand Words” award.

JillGat is right. I first recall those birds from at least that far back, maybe from the '50s.

Guess Nickerz has decided that animated GIF isn’t copyrighted (which no doubt it isn’t). But any image I put up. . .