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Hitch’s “The Birds” traced to source

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 | Posted by

So just where did Alfred Hitchcock get his ideas for the movie that put Bodega Bay on the map, The Birds?

One inspiration was a spine chilling story by Daphne du Maurier called The Birds.  It was set on the English coast and is about birds killing people and taking over a village. But the script writer Evan Hunter said Hitch gave him a copy and told him to simply use the title.

The research for the movie also included an article about a bird incident in Capitola, California in 1961, two years before the film was made. Hitchcock sent for a copy of the article about the incident, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The bird incident in Capitola involved Sooty Terns. Residents awoke to find vast numbers of dead birds and terns were smashing themselves into windows and a roofs.

Sibel Bargu, assistant professor of the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University was both a marine biologist and a Hitchcock fan. She decided to research the causes of strange bird behavior and discovered the secret. The birds were poisoning themselves.

According to Bargu, “ Over the past decade, Monterey Bay, a productive coastal environment in the California Current upwelling system, has been affected by recurrent blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia species that produce domoic acid. “

The demoic acid she says “ passes through the blood–brain barrier and binds to these receptors in birds and mammals, it causes symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, scratching, seizures, coma and even death.”

These bird poisonings have also affected brown pelicans on the California coast.

Fish and Game researcher at the Bodega Marine Lab, Jim Moore, said he is aware of the toxin affecting shellfish.

So while neuro-toxins may cause the birds to injure themselves, it hasn’t set them off killing people. It took du Maurier and Hitchcock to pull that one off.

  • Scaredy Pants . . .

    Where in Capitola were the dead birds and terns smashing themselves into roofs and windows?

    I’m scared . . .

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Andrea Granahan is our Bodega area correspondent.
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