Like many people across New England, “Munchkin” has a regular Dunkin’ order.
Medium water in a plastic cup — extra ice.
But unlike other customers of the national coffee chain, this drink — and videos of the 4-year-old white call duck lapping them up — has earned Munchkin and her owner, Krissy Ellis, a considerable online fanbase.
Millions of people follow along on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube as Munchkin clicks her beak and sips on the cool beverages after visits to a Dunkin’ drive-through near Ellis’s small town of Milford, Penn. The short and soothing clips have become so popular, posting the content has become her full-time gig.
Even Ellis thinks it’s “kind of crazy.”
“I never thought I would be a duck’s caretaker for a living,” said Ellis, 20. “But if it works, it works.”
Ellis has been raising ducks since she was 5. But she first got Munchkin at 16, after buying the bird from a friend in her 4-H Club for $15. Because she’s always been “obsessed” with Dunkin’, and Munchkin is a miniature breed of duck, she decided to name her new pet after the coffee shop’s famous doughnut holes.
“That’s how the name Munchkin came to be,” said Ellis, who insists she’s not sponsored by the Canton, Mass.-based company.
Right after getting her, Ellis started posting pictures of Munchkin on Instagram in the same way someone might share images of their cat or dog: Munchkin with a leash on. Munchkin in the snow. Munchkin with other ducks, or poking her head out of a Jack-o-lantern.
But it was when Ellis took Munchkin on a trip to her local Dunkin’ drive-through in 2018, and discovered her pet had a hankering for its ice water, that the duo began to find Internet fame.
“I thought it was hysterical how crazy she went over this Dunkin’ ice water I ordered her. She had never gone crazy for water at home like that,” Ellis said. “So I started filming it.”
Three years and a bunch of ice water later, and Ellis boasts more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok and 200,000 on Instagram.
Ellis said interest in Munchkin and her other seven ducks — they all have coffee-based names, including Munchkin’s two ducklings, Dunkin’ and Donut — has ebbed and flowed on social media over the years, as she’s shared videos of herself raising and caring for the animals, bringing Munchkin on Dunkin’ runs, and even taking a road trip with her bird to the original Dunkin’ location in Quincy.
But in January, shortly after Ellis lost her job at a grocery store, three videos reached new heights, setting the stage for her to turn her full attention to Munchkin’s escapades.
“She got 40 million views in a week of her drinking Dunkin’, and that’s how I ended up with 2 million viewers on TikTok,” said Ellis, who gives the duck one munchkin a year on its birthday. “Now it’s kind of been my job since then to bring my duck to Dunkin’ and film it.”
Ellis said she can earn thousands of dollars a month through video views and brand sponsorships. Besides bringing in the, um, bills, Munchkin’s popularity has also led to news coverage, frequent fan mail featuring drawings of her pet, and requests for specific Munchkin scenes.
“People just love duck videos,” said Ellis, who uses the social media handle @Dunkin.Ducks. “I think a lot of people like it because it’s something that’s happy on the Internet. Just watching a duck drinking water is very calming.”
Fans seem to agree. “I just spent a minute of my life watching a duck get excited over ice water and loved every second of it,” a commenter wrote in reply to one clip.
A spokesperson for Dunkin’ said in a statement that while the company doesn’t sponsor Munchkin’s content, it appreciates “all of our wildly passionate, dedicated, and loyal fans across social media.”
“We’re proud to keep America runnin’, ducks included!”
In truth, Munchkin is happy to try any ice water that’s put in front of her (there’s videos of her testing beverages from various restaurants, one of which has been viewed 9 million times). But Ellis insists her feathered companion always prefers her namesake brand.
“This duck just loves Dunkin’ — she knows what she was named after, and she loves it,” said Ellis.