If you ever wondered where the phrase “Watch the birdie!” came from, here you go

Oct 21, 2020

Markus Hofstätter

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

If you ever wondered where the phrase “Watch the birdie!” came from, here you go

Oct 21, 2020

Markus Hofstätter

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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“Watch the Birdie” – that’s what my parents told me, to make sure I look into the camera before they took a photo of me. I guess lots of you guys remember this saying. With the renovation of a 140-year-old historic brass birdie, I show you the origin of this phrase.

As this website reports, the earliest sightings of this kind of photographic “tool” was found back in 1879. An article by CW Davis was published in an issue of “Photographic News” referring to a mechanical bird that chirps when you operate pneumatic bellows.  I decided against the pneumatic solution because I need one hand for the lens cap and the other hand for the flash trigger. Releasing the brass bird with my foot was too cumbersome for me.

In 1923, Oscar Schwarzkopf published his patent #1445362 which he described as a “Toy Bird Songster”. That’s the type I chose to make in the video above. A “Victory Canary Songster” was also patented that time.

As more portable and smaller cameras were invented, the less “birdies” were seen. But to this day, many still know this familiar expression. So, lets spread the word to keep this great phrase alive.

At the moment Covid19 is back in high season in Austria, so the brass bird has to wait a bit for its deployment. But at some point, it will certainly make a child laugh during a wet plate shoot!

About the Author

Markus Hofstätter is a professional portrait, events and sports photographer based in Austria. He has a passion for analogue and wet plate photography. He loves travelling to visit new places and meeting new people. You can find out more about him on his website or blog, follow his work on Instagram or Facebook or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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