PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A Brown University student puts the post on Instagram, and chaos ensues — students abandon coffees and conversations and begin to sprint, one eye on their surroundings and the other on the post. The newest birb at Brown is waiting to be found.
Birbs, adorable handmade crochet birds, began flocking to the University campus in early April 2023, when an anonymous Instagram account @birbsatbrown started posting photos of the plump, colorful little birds — each one unique, each hidden in a different spot across College Hill. Birbs have been found wedged between books at the Brown University Bookstore, floating in the middle of a swimming pool and even on the campus shuttle.
By summer, @birbsatbrown amassed 2,200 followers and cached dozens of birbs. The account hides anywhere from one birb every few days to three birbs per day, posting photos that contain little to no information about the birbs’ whereabouts. And yet, interest is so high that they’re almost always found within 10 minutes of the original post.
The account is run anonymously by five Brown students: four juniors and one master’s student in the School of Public Health.
The idea began over winter break last year, according to one of the founders, a health and human biology concentrator, who said that the fun will be lost if people find out who’s running the scavenger hunt. A friend showed her the @osuoctopi Instagram account, which hides crochet octopi around The Ohio State University’s campus, and asked if they could do something similar at Brown. An avid crocheter, she agreed. She enlisted a computer science student and the three began following an online pattern to create their own adorable animal: the birb.