“I was looking at a magazine and I saw this little ceramic bird stuck in the middle of a pie. Can you tell me anything about it?” Some members of the Newton Falls Public Library staff were familiar with this cute item known as a pie bird, but having some personal understanding about a topic does not always supply the complete information needed by a patron.
We were successful in discovering information in the first two items we examined. Warman's Flea Market Price Guide, 2nd edition by Don Johnson & Ellen T. Schroy describes them as “little birds with their beaks wide open . . . designed to act as a vent for a pie with a top crust. . .” [p.265]. Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible, seems to have very strong feelings about pie birds. Beranbaum states on page 670, “The purpose . . . is to create and maintain a fanciful opening in the upper crust of the pie for the steam and bubbling juices to vent. I find they are impractical, as they displace too much of the pie’s filling . . .” Both resources said that many people considered them to be collectibles.
There are also websites dedicated to this interesting piece of kitchen equipment. http://www.piebirds.co.uk/ shows the birds as one of a type of pie funnel, which have been used since Victorian times. Besides pie birds, the funnels include people and other animals. The June 8, 2010 posting Brief History of Pies and Pie Birds on the blog Civil War Reenacting and Cooking [http://civilwarcooking.blogspot.com/2010/06/brief-history-of-pies-and-pie-birds.html] also refers to these birds as whistles and chimneys.
Our patron thought that these would make delightful Christmas gifts for her family members who bake. Her next question concerned where she may purchase them and how much they cost. Searching online, we discovered multiple sites offering pie birds for sale, listing of local stores which had them, and prices ranging from $1 to almost $135.