These Tiny $5 Birds Are Causing a Frenzy at Target — Here’s Why
Something about the changing of the seasons awakens a near-primal urge in me to decorate. Maybe it’s a way to assert control over the passage of time, as if I am helping to bring on the autumn by setting out miniature pumpkins. Or maybe it’s rooted in a deeper human habit of ritualizing seasonal shifts.
As a seasoned (pun intended) decorator, I was shocked and a little indignant to discover there’s an entire world of festive decor that I had no idea about: the universe of Target’s Featherly Friends.
These decorative fabric birds are six inches tall, with round, lightweight bodies. Their tiny black bead eyes are simultaneously cute and unsettlingly blank. Adding to their appeal, the birds still sell for just $5 apiece. Each Featherly Friend has a name (indicated on a gold tag), a special, seasonal outfit, and, presumably, a personality of their own.
For example, “Splash,” a bird from last year’s spring collection, was dressed in a yellow slicker and matching hat, complete with a tiny umbrella. “Oakley,” one of this year’s fall birds, wears a plaid vest and wields a miniature rake. The birds’ outfits do not merely suggest a character, but a sense of purpose; these birds have rich interior lives, with places to go and front yards to tidy. As I look at collectors’ pictures of their flocks, the birds regard their owner like reproachful hobbyists that have been interrupted in the middle of their butterfly chasing, sunbathing, or wood chopping. These birds have lived lives beyond my imagining.
Target has been selling them since as early as 2016 under the Spritz and Featherly Friends brands (though they are most easily found in Target’s seasonal sections, like Hyde & EEK! or Wondershop). Their popularity is enormous, but niche: I only learned about them from a friend’s casual comment about managing to secure a Halloween-themed bird on her third visit to Target that week.
Though I was initially inclined to laugh, I quickly realized that getting hold of a Featherly Friend is a serious business. Stock is often limited, and popular birds can quickly become extinct species. Collectors swap tips and secrets online (including on the aptly named r/SeasonalFabricBirds on Reddit), often affectionately referring to their coveted prizes as “birbs.” One post asks, “Need help getting these birds?” with the seedy air of a trench-coated salesman. There are even urban legends: My friend said she’d heard rumors of employees barricading aisles until they could hand off new shipments of Featherly Friends to a few shady figures, presumably to be sold at a markup.
In fact, the small but active Reddit community regularly complains of “scalpers,” who buy up popular seasonal drops and sell them at staggering markups. On Amazon, for example, a set of three Halloween-themed birds is priced at $53 — a 253 percent markup from the retail price of $15. A set of three birds from the 2021 Thanksgiving collection (including a deliriously adorable one with a deerstalker cap, vest, and binoculars for — one assumes — birdwatching) sells for $49.99 on eBay, a 233 percent markup.
At this point in my journey, I am far from laughing at this niche obsession. Instead, I’m wondering if I’m even worthy to be a member of this elite, obsessive club that so intently finds and secures the little birds that bring them joy. On the Reddit forum, people share their excitement at securing a coveted “witch”-themed bird, and their frustration at Target’s shipping policies. (At $5, the birds don’t qualify for Target’s $35 shipping minimum. Savvy community members recommend buying gift cards to make up the difference, and use the gift cards to pay for their “bird problem,” as one user puts it.)
Though I’m still far from obsessed, I’m beginning to understand the passion these birds inspire. They are frivolous, but practically priced. They are whimsical, yet strangely relatable. Seeing these little birds outfitted for their tasks and hobbies opens a small window into a comforting world where we are each perfectly attired for our engaging, joyful, seasonal activities. These cost-effective birds offer a simple way to celebrate the seasons, a fun collectors’ hobby, and a tight-knit community.
In researching this article, I purchased my own Featherly Friend: “Loop,” the last bird in stock at Target. Loop is a white and gray bird, perhaps so named for the fuzzy cream-colored scarf that’s looped jauntily around his neck. His knitted gray cap features tiny ear flaps and white pom poms that are a stylish contrast to his gray wings and tweedy body. Though his outfit indicates a disturbing lack of hobby, Loop seems to be on his way someplace — perhaps flying south for the winter.
And I’m sure he’ll look even better beside the miniature Christmas bird ornaments I’m eyeing next.
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