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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Here’s the real story behind Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’

In 1961, the sooty shearwater invaded California. It took 50 years for scientists to figure out why.

In the Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 18, 1961, there is an account of thousands of birds raining down from the sky at 3 a.m.—crashing into homes and cars in Capitola and Pleasure Point, California just off Monterey Bay. Eight persons were reported bitten. This is the bird: Ardenna grisea, the sooty shearwater.

“The word of the bird invasion spread fast throughout the state,” notes the article, “and a phone call came to The Sentinel from mystery thriller producer Alfred Hitchcock from Hollywood.” He requested a copy of that day’s paper. After all, the famed director was adapting a particular 1952 Daphne du Maurier story into a screenplay on the subject of killer birds. And less than two years later, Hitchcock’s The Birds premiered.

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