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Hitchcock's The Birds

Updated on October 11, 2014

Beautifully Scary, and.......Based on Real Life!

I was a little kid the first time I saw "The Birds", a horror movie from 1964, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I remember it scared me so much I had a dreadful fear of birds, especially Crows, for several years. The most frightening scene to me was the phone booth scene. I was not too fond of phone booths either for a while.

Recently I learned that the story was not made up.... at least the premise wasn't. There really were birds who went crazy. And, it recently happened again! How creepy is that? I had no idea back then that birds could really turn into maniacal zombie-like creatures, but we now know they sometimes do. I guess my fears were not so unfounded after all!

Come with me to take a look at the original movie and the true story behind it, and the 2009 "angry bird" incident as well. We will see if there is any logical reasoning behind it, or if we need to turn back into scaredy cats whenever we see flocks of birds behaving in strange ways.

Image Credit Publicity Photo: Universal Studios

The Birds Movie Promo
The Birds Movie Promo

Why DID they attack?

In 1961, and again almost 40 years later?

Hitchcock's original story was partially based on the book by Daphne du Maurier, but was highly augmented by the strange behavior of thousands of seabirds mysteriously slamming themselves into the sides of homes in Monterey Bay in 1961.

Scientists remained baffled by the incident for decades.

Life Imitates Art

Oceanographic researcher Sibel Bargu of Louisiana State University was inspired to find out more about the phenomenon after seeing the film through a keyhole as a child:

"When I was a kid, they showed it on TV and my parents didn't let me watch it. While they were watching in the family room, I was outside, trying to see the movie from the keyhole. What I saw was so scary."

Thanks to research by Ms Bargu and others, the mystery was solved!

The birds.... ingested a toxin that caused them to act strangely.

The toxin showed up in algae consumed by anchovies and squid, which in turn was eaten by the birds. While it had no effect on the fish, the birds became disoriented. They also suffered from amnesia and seizures. With Hoards of birds acting in such strange behavior, it would indeed feel pretty scary!

Might think twice before eating anchovies again though. (oh that's right, I don't eat anchovies! whew! that's a relief!)


"They said when you got here the whole thing started," paranoid mother says to Tippi Hedren.

"I think you're the cause of all this!

I think you're evil!


The Birds - available now right here! - Plus other Hitchcock Classics!

Who is scarier?

Who is scarier?
Who is scarier?

Hitchcock on the origin of the Story

Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds"

"What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema. Today I would be unable to tell you the story of Daphne du Maurier's The Birds. I read it only once and very quickly at that."

Potter Schoolhouse attack scene - From Hitchcock's "The Birds"

Potter School
Potter School

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