Big Bird is 8 feet tall - 8’2” to be exact. His first appearance on Sesame Street was on November 10, 1969, and Caroll Spinney has puppeteered Big Bird for over 40 years since his debut.
Big Bird’s costume was built by Kermit Love based on a drawing by Jim Henson, and Big Bird is considered a (very large) canary. The costume weighs about 10 pounds - four of which is the head, making it extremely strenuous to operate.
Spinney (the “Muppeteer”) is completely enclosed within the costume, and he uses his right hand - holding it directly above his head, while standing - to operate the head, neck, and beak. On top of that, the costume doesn’t have any eye holes, so Spinney only has a third-person view from a monitor on the inside.
While the legendary Spinney has puppeteered Big Bird for years, he almost quit during his first year on the show. He came from Boston to New York City and was having trouble adjusting to his new life. He also felt like he didn’t fit in and wasn’t performing well enough, so he walked to Jim Henson’s office to leave the show. On his way, he ran into Kermit Love, who told him he’d never have another unique opportunity like Sesame Street anywhere else, and they had a heartfelt exchange. Spinney would go on to perform on Sesame Street for the next 46 years. Now, as he has aged, he is set to pass the torch to his apprentice: Matt Vogel.
Over the years, Big Bird’s body and personality has evolved. His appearance grew rounder and fluffier. At first, his personality was a bit dopier, awkward and prone to misunderstandings. His resume of talents, however, is downright impressive: he can roller skate, ice skate, write poetry and even ride a unicycle, which begs the question: considering he’s taller than any other basketball player on Earth, can Big Bird also slam dunk?