If you go bird watching in Central Park, you might catch a rare canary sighting.
You can spot the big yellow bird from across Wollman Rink. If you peer through binoculars, you’ll see him sitting on a bench with his blue monster friend. If you’re able to get closer, you can even have your picture taken with him.
Cristian, the man behind the bird, said he sits on the bench and doesn’t ask for money. The sign says $5 for a photo and that tips are appreciated, but he never asks — kids and adults come up to him, “feed” the blue monster a bill and say cheese.
He said that he cannot legally say that he's Sesame Street's Big Bird— though he bears a striking resemblance to that big yellow fowl.
Originally from Peru, Cristian has been dressing in the costume for money in New York City for about four years, he told Metro. After losing his restaurant and bar in 2013, he needed a way to make money. His cousin gave him a costume to try for a month and Cristian found his next calling.
He now lives in Orlando and takes cheap flights to the city, sits with his hand in the air — to hold up the bird’s head — six to eight hours a day for three or four days.
“The first day I started doing it, it was painful,” Cristian said. Now he is used to it and he makes enough money to support his wife and kids for at least two weeks.
“I won’t tell you the amount, but it’s like being a professional,” he said. “But it wasn’t like that when I started. When I started, it was even more, I guess, but then with all the things that happened in Times Square and the bad reputation, I stopped making money, so that’s why I decided to try to be more entertaining. I learned from puppeteers; I made my own costume. Now, I’m making more than ever, to be honest with you.”
And making money in a big yellow bird costume is legal, according to the city's Parks Department. Cristian is considered an “expressive matter vendor,” like a performance artist or caricature artist, so he can hang out and accept tips, which the blue monster gobbles up from outstretched hands.
[NOTE: According to Parks, performance artists must be mobile. If they are not, there are specific rules for set up and location].
Times Square, according to Cristian, is for the birds. “Whoever [solicits in Times Square] and asks money for pictures, just put a costume on. I don’t like that. I try to entertain.”
This might be the last year for this big yellow bird and blue monster duo. Cristian said he is going for his real estate license in Florida, which beats getting punched in the head by a punk kid.
“Most people are nice. Sometimes they bother me,” Cristian admitted. “Most of the time, 95 percent of the time I’m here, people are nice.”
This article, originally published on Feb. 23 at 5 a.m., was corrected to clarify the rule on "expressive matter vendors."