Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror flick "The Birds," in which feathered maniacs attack the residents of Bodega Bay, Calif., over the course of several days, never explained the birds' homicidal intent. But marine scientist David Garrison of the National Science Foundation has a theory about the real-life events that may have inspired the legendary film.
FOR THE RECORD:
"The Birds": An article in the Jan. 8 Section A about unusual bird behavior and the film "The Birds" quoted marine scientist David Garrison of the National Science Foundation speculating that Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 movie was inspired by an actual event. A 1961 incident may have provided Hitchcock with research material for the movie, but the script itself is based on a Daphne du Maurier story published in 1952 in which a flock of seabirds attacks a community in coastal England.
Garrison investigated a strange event in 1991 that caused birds around Monterey Bay to act bizarre and die. He identified the culprit as domoic acid, which was produced by toxic algae off the Pacific Coast. Those acid-making algae were consumed by fish and shellfish, which were in turn gobbled by birds, who couldn't effectively rid the toxin from their systems.
"There were reports of pelicans and cormorants wandering around drunk and throwing up anchovies," said Garrison, who is based in Arlington, Va.