Scientists find possible cause to 'The Birds' mystery
January 2nd, 2012
05:17 PM ET

Scientists find possible cause to 'The Birds' mystery

It has been a mystery for decades, and it just may be solved now.

Scientists say they may have discovered what caused birds to slam into homes in Monterey Bay, California in the summer of 1961. The mysterious event inspired Alfred Hitchcock's famous classic "The Birds," which was released in 1963.

Louisiana State University ocean environmentalist Sibel Bargu told USA Today that it appeared that the birds were suffering from poison.

In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Bargu argues that "toxin-making algae were present in 79 percent of the plankton" the birds ate. The toxins contained "a nerve-damaging acid, which causes confusion, seizures and death in birds."

"All the symptoms were extremely similar to later bird poisoning events in the same area," Bargu said.

Scary stuff.

Filed under: movies

soundoff (89 Responses)


    January 4, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. claudia

    it was Bodaga Bay not Monterray Bay an hour or so north of San Francisco

    January 4, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. 3rdEyeOpened

    First it was fireworks and now they blame nature via poison in the plankton? Are they now blaming Red- tide for this?

    January 4, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. fretlessbass

    Sweet, Addison! Hang out here long enough and you'll get attacked by some birds I guarantee it...

    January 4, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Addison Smith

    In 1964, I talked with two of the Hollywood stunt men who worked on the Bird's movie with Alfred Hitchkok. Being the careful planner that he was, Hitchkok didn't want to take the chance that the birds would not "attack" on cue so he trained them to attack humans using molassas. He fed them molassas. The birds loved it so much that in the scenes when they were supposed to attack they put the molassas on the clothes of the actors and the birds jumped on them. Using camera angles and the like he made it look like the birds were attacing. None of the actors was ever harmed by the birds.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kyle

    Silly reporters. "The Birds" was based on a Daphne Du Maurier short story (she also wrote "Rebecca" which Hitch directed) which was written in 1952.

    Check your facts dudes.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Seabird

    IInteresting article, even though lacking in basic research–for starters, no "mystery," it has been known since the beginning that this poisoning was likely the cause of the incident, but I guess this research helped confirm it. As the (more careful than the writer) comment-ers pointed out, the original inspiration was the short story, but this incident did help shape the movie, too.
    We appreciate the hard work that journalists manage to do today without the luxury of job security, fact-checkers, or copy editors, but please do at least check Wikipedia before you dash something off:

    January 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gustavo Bastos

    The movie wasn't based (only) on the birds attack. It was based on a short story of Daphine Du Maurier. It's even written in the movie poster!

    January 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Htown-K

      The short story was written 1952.

      January 3, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ludwig

    I would like to know more about
    how are these plants are being contaminated, or where did it come from? Just to know more about the root of the problem ,please , thanks !

    January 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Choad

    I'm all in favor of white trash being 'deported' – starting with you, Avser.

    January 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John 1

    I love dudes and I aint no prude. Don't be rude and intrude when I be nude. I pump dem chumps in da plump rump with my tiny stump!

    January 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John 1

    I have wasted the 10 seconds I could have spent slamming my buddy in da keister! Time to jump back in the sack and pack that but-crack..cutting no slack..don't give me no, that be wiggity-wack! I love dem poopers.

    January 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John1

    So basically, this poison was able to create zombie birds ? Interesting.

    January 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sheila

    Is that 79% of each bird's stomach contents, or an average of 79% off all the birds' stomach contents, or 79% of the analyzed algae taken from the site of the incident? This article is so imprecise for a scientific discovery. I'm appalled.

    January 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marcus Moore

    Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you. Jig-a-boo. Jig-a-boo. I luv you.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Marcus Moore

    I forgot to mention to my can schlob my 3" tool(fully extended) any long as u have a package too! No posers or d-bag clowns! I just wanna pump u in da spot of brown.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  17. magickat

    it took them 60 years to figure this out ???

    January 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  18. MD

    Mitch, what's wrong with the birds?

    January 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  19. biobabe

    I luv da lezbos and I luv da box. Just say no to dem nasty cox! I don't want a dude with a big ol dong...just bring me a chik and a 2 foot bong! Let's ram each other silly in da poop chute, it makes me happy and makes me toot! Yeah!!! Dykos rule!

    January 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Marcus Moore

    I iz a fairy and I iz a fruit. I love dem schlongers but my point is moot! All u gayboyz need to polish my tool. Hey there buddy...just wipe up my drool. Let's party down!!

    January 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Gro

    Apparently, you had to put in your two cents as well....why didn't you move on instead of popping off. Looks like someone needs to ram a big ol jig-a-boo meat stick in yo pooper!!

    January 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Gro

    My God, I can't believe this many people were so moved by this article that they had to post an opinion. Can't you just read or not read something and move on?

    January 3, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • John1

      Just the same as you wasted 10 seconds of you life commenting, and I wasted 10 seconds replying to your stupid comment.

      January 3, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  23. mill1978

    Finally! This has been keeping me up for YEARS. To sleep! Perchance to dream!

    January 3, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  24. biobabe

    Read the tag to this article and I thought please don't report psp -paralytic shellfish poisoning-which is basically what toxins by algae amounts to. I taught that many, many, years ago in my marine bio class. So this really is not a new discovery and if it is please check with me first because quite clearly it is obvious that" lowly"me figured it out way before anyone else. lol

    January 3, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  25. RKT

    Whoever wrote this article is a dope. The movie was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier.

    January 3, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  26. jh

    its amazing what some will say on the internet. lol lol lol

    January 3, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |

    How many times have we told this fairy to stop selling his crazy on this blog. What a punk! This clown puts the same stupid cr@p on every CNN blog article. Go pump your buddy in the keister and mind your own business.

    January 3, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  28. dee

    Knowing what happened to those birds back then may be beneficial knowlege to us in the future, in this unpredictable age...strange days are coming.

    January 3, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  29. hecep

    I keep thinking that they could have chosen a better still from the movie.

    January 3, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  30. jh

    yup to the comment after my first one.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  31. Boo

    The movie has nothing to do with what happend in 1961. It was based on a short story. It seems the press can't get much of anything right these days. Instead of reporting the news, the press is now creating it.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  32. elsie

    Wow, hope we're not looking at the next mass shooter, y'all. This is creepily reminiscent of Jared Loughner. REPORT ABUSE

    January 3, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  33. jh

    i said the birds could have been drunk on beerbottles left out.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  34. me

    Poor birds.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  35. aflyer guy

    Birds pooped on my clean car windshield this weekend. Just thought you should know....

    January 3, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  36. michaelfury

    January 3, 2012 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  37. SireHipster

    This is at least the fifth time I've seen this spammer post this crap in the last few days and it needs to stop.
    Wake up CNN!!! Get this guy out of here!!!

    January 3, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  38. SixDegrees

    It seems odd that they know the contents of the bird's stomachs in fine detail, but are only now linking the presence of toxic algae to their behavior. Something was left out of this article.

    January 3, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  39. Steve-O

    I have a sudden craving for KFC.

    January 3, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  40. jwisc

    Poison? Maybe just jerks with fireworks like those who killed the birds in Arkansas.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Wyatt Weed

    In response to the first posting by Cameron, the novel "Jaws" was at least in part inspired by the Jersey Shore Attacks in 1916, in which 4 people were killed by either a Great White or a Bull Shark. I agree the story, as presented, doesn't seem to belong. Maybe it could have been written differently? I think historic reference as it relates to films is fascinating, but I think this one was presented out of context.

    January 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Erhm Huh

    This isn't "news." We've known since the mid-80s that domoic acid from red algae caused the birds in Capitola to go nuts.

    January 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  43. kasey

    I love that they seem to be able to delete posts if they don't like what you have to say, but this crapola stays on forever.

    January 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Abe

    Stop spamming

    January 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Abe

    Wasn't so much based on what happened in California but rather it was based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier and the original location was the UK.

    But being hollywood they made the film based in the USA. Hollywood distorts many facts and the stories origins.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Squirrel Rabbit

    The acting in "The Birds" was quite possibly the worst acting I've EVER seen. It was painful at points.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  47. carrieanne

    Evel that will come along in 50 years if they take as long as the bird puzzle!

    January 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Lean Green

    Yea what he said^.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Evel Knievel

    Why the eff are they still studying what killed a bunch of birds 50 years ago? Maybe they should be working on a cure for cancer or AIDS?

    January 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billiam Hillary

      Maybe those birds caused AIDS.

      January 2, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Maybe you could have devoted your life to curing cancer or AIDS, instead of wasting it jumping motorcycles over chasms?

      January 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Homer

      Maybe It's an Obama Stimulus project-like the field mice it was probably submitted by Pelosi

      January 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • KingHippo

      Exactly – Who are these scientists? Why are they studying this? Who is paying for this research? I understand they're ornithologists (bird scientists) and they have to do something with their degrees, but really, hypothesizing about something that happened 50 years ago? I can only hope this research was not funded by a government grant, i.e. my taxes!

      January 3, 2012 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Marcus Moore

      They ARE working on a cure for AIDS and cancer you idiot!

      January 3, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Some idiots feel the need to turn everything into a political argument.

      January 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Brady

    While the incident described may have had some impetus in the development of the movie, it was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abe

      You'd think they'd know this!

      I think the readers would write better articles sometimes.

      January 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      Agreed. I wish they'd check things like this before posting. So much for being a reliable news organization – I knew this one off the top of my head, so it's not like this was obscure information. We had to read the story in high school.

      January 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Frank

    The movie was based on a story by French author Daphne Du Maurier that was published in the early 1950s. Please check your facts.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abe

      Just saw your comment straight after I posted mine.

      Daphne was British! and the Birds was based in the UK.

      January 2, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TLE

      Thank you, although she was British.

      January 3, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      I dont get that
      Just because shes dead she isnt British anymore?

      January 3, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • skipInVegas

      Thank you, Frank. I was going to post a similar comment, knowing that Hitch's film was based on the book, not an actual incident. That said, this makes this article invalid. Once again, CNN doesn't get their facts straight. And this is a "news" provider! Thankfully, there's The New York Times site.

      January 3, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • everlaster

      i was going to post the same comment. Looks like three people should be fired:
      1) the "reporter" from CNN who didn't fact check this story
      2) the "reporter" from USA Today who didn't fact this story
      3) Louisiana State University ocean environmentalist Sibel Bargu for wasting LSU's time

      January 3, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      du Maurier is/was a man, FYI.

      January 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mama

      @ Guest, du Maurier was a lady, and after 1969, a Lady.

      Man, woman, French, British, movie,'s still based on entertainment, at least loosely, and I'm guessing most of us clicked on this article because of the connection to entertainment, and we would have ignored it completely had it been in the Science section...

      January 4, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  52. Cameron

    Why is this article in the entertainment section? Simply because this biological event was the inspiration for a movie? I suppose shark attack victim stories should be categorized as entertainment too because of "Jaws".

    January 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • kasey

      I doubt that Jaws was inspired by a specific shark attack, but The Birds, a classic movie, was inspired by this specific event, so yes, it is relevant. If you didn't want to read it, you shouldn't have clicked on the link.

      January 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ross

      Damn – don't read it if you don't want to – IDIOT!

      January 2, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      it has a much better excuse to be in the entertainment section than all the articles about who is dating/dumping/marrying/divorcing who. unfortunately cnn has yet to add a category for "stuff losers care about".

      January 3, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Cameron, "Jaws" WAS inspired by a specific shark attack event on the East Coast (a river in Jersey). Might want to have some clue as to the facts out before you post a snarky comment.

      January 3, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Sorry, that was meant for kasey.

      January 3, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Taioseach

      Yep, that's why it's on here. Because it was the inspiration for a movie. Just as the shark attacks in New Jersey circa late 20s early 30s were the inspiration for the novel and later the movie jaws

      January 3, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Cameron, I think you got the point by now, but you are a retard.

      January 3, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Marcus Moore

      It's in the ENTERTAINMENT section because the events were the inspiration for a movie. If the story was about a shark or sharks that did something that inspired a movie, it would be here too! Any other stupid questions or comments?!?

      January 3, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Sizzlean

      I'm the only one who agrees with Cameron apparently. Especially since The Birds wasn't even based on this event.

      January 3, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Lord2FLI


      January 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoot

      Cameron, you answered your own lame question and are probably still confused as to why everyone thinks you're an idiot.

      January 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanford

      You big ol' dummy!

      January 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      Wow what a bunch of rude teens here with your "lame", "retard", "gay", etc., sayings....

      grow up kids.

      January 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      to make a generalization based on one explanation isn't science... that is just one case of this happening.. what about the fish? what about all the thousands of birds that died when it wasn't new years or the 4th of july? I'm so tired of CNN sometimes. I come here to get updates quickly, but as for science? Meh.. Fortune cookie science.

      January 4, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |

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