Caroll Spinney, the iconic puppeteer who voiced the beloved character Big Bird on Sesame Street, is leaving the show after 49 years, it was announced on Wednesday.

Spinney, who also played Oscar the Grouch, will reportedly leave the show officially on Thursday. Sesame Street films in Astoria, Queens in New York City and first premiered in 1969.


“Big Bird helped me find my purpose,” Spinney, 84, said in a statement. “Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.”

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Spinney, who also played other minor characters on the children’s series, won six Emmys (including a Lifetime Achievement Award) and two Grammys. He also boasts a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Spinney said the part of Big Bird was a great fit for him for several different reasons.

“I’m a soloist,” he explained. “I’m not good with a team. I’m out of sync with the rest. They’re all going left at the same time, while I’m the only one going right.” He also said it could be “very lonely in there … I was separated from everybody.”