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Fold a Flapping Bird with Recycled Paper -Which is Best?

Say YES to a Simple Joy! Say YES to Play!

The origami Flapping Bird is a classical origami figure which is easy to make and a great source of joy. People of all ages always enjoy receiving this origami bird and experiencing the magic of pulling its tail to have its wings flap.

All you need is a square piece of paper and a few minutes of your time to make this origami bird. Below, you find a video tutorial and a list of different recycled papers that are best to use.

Here is a video that shows how to fold the flapping bird
YouTube player

(Also known as “flapping Crane”)

The best papers to use to fold a crane

In the practice of origami, I have learned to keep my eyes open to the possibilities and spirit of any paper that comes into my hands and I can recycle to fold origami models. According to the model we fold there will be papers that are more appropriate than others for each particular case.

The following is a list of found papers I have reused to fold the traditional flapping bird, also known as the flapping crane.  All of them present different qualities. I evaluated them in terms of their colorfulness and the ease with which the resulting bird flaps.

Examples of origami flapping birds folded from different recycled papers

Click on the image to view it larger.

  1. Paper from newsletters. These papers tend to be thick. The resulting birds don’t always flap easily, and they might tear but can be colorful and bring different patterns and textures. You might want to try them for non-action models.
  2. Paper from glossy magazines (color pages). Use pages with advertisements, which are usually colorful. These papers are usually thin and the flapping action is acceptable.
  3. Paper from the back of business envelopes. Paper from envelopes is thick. Birds made from it don’t flap as easily, but they have nice and delicate patterns.
  4. Fruit wrapping papers. This paper is just like tissue, so it is not very firm, but the flapping action can be very good.
  5. Shoes and clothing wrapping papers. I have found great tissue-like paper inside shoe and clothing boxes. You can use it as it comes or sprinkle some color on them. Just as the previous one,  it is not very firm, but the flapping action can be very good.
  6. Baking paper. Excellent paper to get the flapping action of this bird. In this case, I added color to it.
  7. Paper from magazines. The black and white pages of text can be striking. These papers are usually thin and the flapping action is acceptable.
  8. Christmas gift wrapping papers. Save your Christmas wrapping papers of this year to fold birds or cranes as presents or ornaments for next year’s holiday. Gift wrap comes in different thicknesses, so each will give you a different flapping result. Experiment!
  9. Bread wrapping papers from bakeries This is a sort of thin parchment paper similar to but thinner than baking paper and it’s very firm. It is not too colorful, but it is resilient. In my experience, this is the best to make flapping birds as they flap easily and there is no tearing of the paper.
  10. Paper from outdated tourist maps This paper can be thick and might tear, but it’s colorful and evocative.
  11. Paper from old notebooks Note that the handwriting adds to the pattern and texture of the paper, although it is rather thick and not easy to get it to flap.
  12. Paper from old Yellow Pages books. This paper is fragile but colorful, and the resulting flapping action is quite good.

What kinds of paper have you found to reuse and make origami? Share your experiences here!

Did you enjoy making this origami toy?

Check out other tutorials to make easy paper toys that flap, float, inflate, jump, or expand.

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21 thoughts on “Fold a Flapping Bird with Recycled Paper -Which is Best?”

  1. I did a similar paper trial for a demonstration of Iris Paper Folding at the local library. You have given me several more papers to try; IPF looks best with glossy paper. I have made mobiles of origami from junk mail – even some cranes. However, I did not have a pattern for a flapping crane. (Or maybe I just didn’t know about the flapping!)

  2. Este pájaro es mi favorito. It’s a very forgiving bird, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it still flaps its wings.
    I like to cut squares from out-of-date travel atlases and from old dictionaries.

  3. Your instructions are excellent and easy to follow. Thank you.
    I have been using the subscription cards that come in magazines for peace cranes. I square them and add a little watercolor, fold and make mobiles with them.

  4. Excelente sitio, estoy comenzando en el origami y me emociona mucho haber realizado este pájaro con movimiento. ¡Muchas gracias!

  5. I sometimes fold models out of candy wrappers like the individually wrapped Andes Mints, or Ginger People candies. The paper-backed foil on some chocolate wrappers is fun & smells like chocolate! Sometimes you can use both the inner & outer wrappers depending on the weight of the paper & the complexity of the model.

    Waxed paper or sandwich wrapping paper can be fun too because it’s semi-waterproof. Freezer paper is plastic coated & waterproof, but it’s stiff & springy, which works for some models & not others.

  6. Leyla: I have found that paper from old encyclopedia Brittanicas is excellent paper for folding. The paper is quite thin, strong ,acid free and will take repeated folds quite well. The other good thing is that there is a lot of obsolete encyclopedias around. People bring them in to the library next to the place I work at for the book sale. You could try used book stores and places that sell second hand donated stuff like Salvation Army. I love your website. Dave T

  7. Hi Leyla,

    This post was an interesting read. I have mostly tried folding origami out of newspaper, wrapping paper from gifts, copy paper which I find around at times as well as the gift wrapping tissue paper. Once, I have even tried folding a swan out of the inner paper lining a cigarette box :) But I daresay, I have never attempted an action origami before.

    – Ancella


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