Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Articulated Bird Puppet

Here is a bird I've been meaning to make for some time. In fact I plan on making a few...all different types of birds from a small sparrow up to an owl but this is the prototype.
I am a big bird fan...we have two birds in our household. A budgie named Patrick and a cockatiel named Tika who loves to perch on the laptop while I'm writing these posts.
I'm also a fan of these puppets and designing the mechanism to get the right movement....
So if you are interested I'll walk you thru the process. I also plan on posting a simpler design later this week but these are really not that hard.
Materials Required:
- thin cardboard like from a cereal box or shirt box
- paint, I used acrylic craft paint
- scissors
- string
- bead
- mod podge (optional)
- awl
Print off template. Trace onto light cardboard...I used the back end of a paper pad.
Cut out....lightly mark in feathers and details if you want to help during the painting but keep in mind acrylic paint will cover these marks.
Punch out holes....use a very small punch or just use a large tapestry needle or awl.
Paint as desired. Let dry.
I added 2 coats of Mod Podge to give it a shiny finish and make it a bit more substanial.
Take some string about 10 inches...I start with more than I need and then cut down as I go....better to have too much than it being too short and you have to start over.
From the back of the bird pull string thru on of the holes in the main body....knot several times and then trim end.
Thread string thru the corresponding wing using the upper hole.
Now you could use paper fasteners but I found they overwhelmed the bird...in the easier version to come we'll use fasteners.
Thread thru other wing.
Insert string thru other hole in main body from the back and knot off...you want the wings to be fully extended when you do this so you;ll have enough slack to make the mechanism work.
I painted my knots the same color as the body to make them less noticeable.
Now take another string...again start with 10 inches. Thread thru the bottom hole in the wing..come around the side and knot to the original string end.
Take the long end of the string and repeat on other side...remember to keep the wings fully extended when you do this. Trim ends.
Take another length of string...this time around 24 inches...loop over the middle of the string at the bottom of the wings...you really want this to be in the middle to get an even movement.
Tie into a knot leaving you two loose ends at the bottom of your string.
Now you could just tie a loop at the bottom for pulling but I prefer to use a bead.
Make a little hanger out of wire and either glue or tape into place at the back of the head.
That's it and you'll have an articulated bird puppet you can hang up anywhere. My kids love these as well.
Give it a try and I'll have an easier version next as well as some more of these engaging birds....the cockatiel started huffing at this one so it must be at least somewhat realistic.


  1. awesome, i LOVE these kinds of toys! thank you for posting this, my little girl will love it, except hers will need to be red like the scarlet macaws on diego. :)

  2. Olá, I was visiting some blogs and found its admirable. Congratulations! I am following of it. Kiss!

  3. These are just delightful, love the colors you used.

  4. Thank-you very much for your kind comments...I love getting comments it makes it all worthwhile.

  5. This is so great!! Thanks for sharing the instructions. I really like the other little birdie you made too!

  6. Gail,

    Once one pulls the wings down, the wings are supposed to go back, right? what makes them go back up to keep them extended? I am sure the answer is very simple.

  7. Hey Pilar,
    Because you are using light cardboard the wings automatically go down due to gravity. It's a puppet so it is just the pulling action of the bead that causes them to flap. If you wanted them to stay extended on their own you would just need to weight the string with a heavier bead or pull. Hope this helps.

  8. Oh this is nicer than the other one and actually moves! Besides, making it is very simple who it is important for early children in order not to frustrate them making this. I will purchase the materials immediately.

  9. Hi there! I've saved your site, and will come back for the template. We'll be making these beautiful birds for my daughter's Bird-Day party! Thank you for sharing your gorgeous art work. I'll post photos from the party and link back to these instructions if that's okay!