The Birds, Hitchcock and Nature

The idea published recently that the mystery of Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” has been solved is an interesting one, but is not true. This ABC News article says it was an event in Monterey California when flocks of seagulls slammed themselves into buildings which prompted Hitchcock to make his film “The Birds”.

However, his film was actually based on a fictional work of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier and published in 1952. Her novelette was broadcast as a horror story on Lux Radio Theater in 1953. If you want to listen to the radio version of The Birds based on the writing of Du Maurier’s story, visit the Relic Radio website. Also you can see Daphne du Maurier was credited for the story on IMDB.

So the mystery that apparently recently was solved, is what caused the real birds in Monterrey to regurgitate anchovies and fly into buildings, not what happened in the fictitious movie. Some scientists think now the real birds were poisoned by domoic acid, a neurotoxin that is produced by plankton. Fish ate the toxic plankton thereby poisoning the birds when they ingested the fish, which caused the birds very unusual behavior.

Hitchcock did read a news article about the bizarre bird activity in Monterrey and the article became part of his background research for the film he made. His film still functions as a fictional horror story though. There is no basis in reality for what is depicted in the film – a huge number of birds of many different species attacking humans randomly without mercy, and for no apparent benefit, such as for food or defending territory.

This is a digression, but another very successful horror/thriller movie depicting a type of animal came out twelve years later – Jaws. This horror movie also took great liberty, by depicting a shark as constantly attacking a community of humans, when in fact in reality, the number of human deaths by shark attacks each year across the entire planet is less than one hundred. The author of Jaws later regretted having written a story depicting a shark as a monster and scaring millions of people. Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year, partly due to the misperception they hunt humans, but did Hitchcock’s movie contribute to a similar negative view of real birds?

Somewhat recently a British journalist wrote that du Maurier did not approve of how Hitchcock changed certain aspects of her original story, and that her work contributed to the beginning of the the environmental catastrophe story.

The notion of hordes of wild birds attacking humans though seems rather out of touch with the reality, because it is human activity which has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions, if not billions of birds each year, and continues to do so, “Parr says up to one billion birds are killed each year from hitting buildings, another billion get killed by kitty, 50 million die hitting communication towers, 15 million die from pesticide poisoning.” (Source: Tree Hugger)

Incidentally, the star of “The Birds”, Tippi Hedren became an ardent animal conservationist and to this day still operates an animal park in California.

Image Credit: Public Domain


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Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

"The Birds" scared the daylights out of me as a kid.

Carmen S.
Carmen S6 years ago

very interesting, thanks for sharing

New G.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you.

Ruth S.
Ruth C6 years ago

It says that in Monterey California flocks of seagulls slammed themselves into buildings, that is very sad, but why did this happen? was it because someone poisoned them?

Chad A.
Chad A6 years ago

I love "The Birds" even though my mom claims she was traumatized by it when it was released. They show it every now and then at the art cinema and I usually go.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Very interesting. "The Birds" is one of my all time favorite Hitchcock films. Thanks Jake.

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti6 years ago

I can see why du Maurier would object to what was done in the movie.

Kathy K.
Kathy K6 years ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Yvette T.
Past Member 6 years ago

Cool article. Unfortunately, too many birds and other life forms are toxified and die from unnatural causes these days.