Spoiler alert: The bird drinks faster if you give him whiskey!
engineering of the drinking bird
Credit: tam_odin / Getty Images

Some scientific mysteries have baffled the world for generations. How was the universe formed? Does life exist on other planets? And how do those freakin’ drinking birds work?! In the famous words of Homer Simpson, “It’s drinking the water!” Thankfully, though not all of these questions have been answered—specifically, the silly universe and extraterrestrial life ones—some dude over on YouTube has gotten to the bottom of the whole drinking bird thing. And it makes for a surprisingly interesting 10-minute video.

“In this video, I’ll detail the bird’s clever engineering design, explain how it uses thermodynamics, and link its action to some of the greatest and most impactful devices created by engineers,” Bill Hammack, known on YouTube as “engineerguy,” states in the video’s introduction. If that sounds like a lofty proclamation for a video about what is essentially a child’s toy or parlor trick, be forewarned that the ten-minute talk doesn’t cut any corners once it gets rolling either. Some of Hammack’s engineering explanations are likely to leave you mindlessly nodding your own head like the drinking bird’s.

And yet, the video still manages a few accessible moments—like when Hammack swaps out the bird’s water for whiskey and the bird drinks faster. No, the bird isn’t a lush (at least that we know). Instead, it demonstrates one of the key mechanisms of how the bird operates: It’s powered by evaporation, and alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, which in turn gets the bird to drink faster.

So the biggest takeaway: If you want to impress your friends, get two drinking birds, set one up with a glass of water and the other with a glass of booze. Then you can say, “More like a drinking problem bird!” and let the laughs ensue. Or at least, that’s the biggest takeaway if you couldn’t follow anything else the Engineer Guy said.