Date October 12, 2023
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A campus crochet scavenger hunt takes wing

Student-made crochet birds, called birbs, are flocking to the Brown campus, where community members search for them hidden in different spots across College Hill.

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.

Each birb takes around 30 minutes to make and the account founders together make anywhere from five to 10 birbs a week — the main limitation being funds to order supplies. There has been a ninja birb, a tempura birb and, in May, a birb with its very own graduation cap.

It took a while to get the account off the ground. “I would make them, and it would be weird to think about leaving them out,” said the health and human biology concentrator. “Like, what if nobody even wants it?”

Slowly but surely, though, birbs caught on. With each new post, the account grew until fans began “memorizing every bush and tree in case we hid a birb there.”

Supporters say it’s a welcome dose of fun, if not a straight-out obsession.

“[It’s] one of the few things that has really brought school spirit together,” said Brown senior Haley Flores, an avid birb hunter. “I always explain to people that it’s like the ‘Hunger Games.’ The person who’s doing this has such a chokehold on the 2,000 people following them.”

Flores’ dreams finally came true when she found birb No. 66. “Before I found it, I was telling people I would not graduate until I found one,” Flores said. “So now, I can officially accept my diploma.”

Brown junior Joseph Maffa has found three. “I think everyone has just been a little bit happier,” Maffa said of birbs and Brown.

Read the full story from the Brown Alumni Magazine.