Caroll Spinney, the man behind Big Bird, passed away at 85

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, has died aged 85. The actor died in his home in Connecticut on Sunday following a battle with dystonia.

In a tweet, the beloved children’s show said Caroll’s “kind and loving view helped shape and define Sesame Street”.

He voiced and operated the puppets, both key characters, until he was well into his 80s. His work as the perpetually miserable Oscar the Grouch, whose distinctive gravelly voice he said he based on a New York cab driver, was widely loved. But he was best known as Big Bird.

In a 2003 memoir, The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers, Spinney said he “may be the most unknown famous person in America”, adding: “It’s the bird that’s famous.”

Sesame Street was honoured in Washington over the weekend, during annual ceremonies at the Kennedy Center.