did melanie cause the birds to attack

Alfred Hitchcocks nature thriller The Birds has one of the most iconic and unsettling ambiguous endings of all time. Why did the birds suddenly stop?

With The Birds ending explained, the deeper themes and meaning of Alfred Hitchcocks chilling thriller become clear — and, once they are, so does the movies reputation as a classic by one of the most influential directors in history. Loosely adapted from the 1952 short story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, the 1963 masterpiece takes place in the seaside town of Bodega Bay, where things take a sinister turn when the local bird population starts swooping down to attack people. Screenwriter Evan Hunter took the premise of unexplained bird attacks from du Maurier’s source material but invented new complex characters and a twistier plot, which brought different themes to the table.

Hot off one of the biggest hits of his career with the pioneering slasher Psycho, Hitchcock set his sights on a different horror subgenre with The Birds. This movie brought the natural thriller into the mainstream, paving the way for movies like Jaws and Arachnophobia. The Birds’ scary attack sequences earned it a nomination for Best Special Effects at the 36th Academy Awards. The Birds’ final scene — in which the birds mysteriously stop their attacks — is utterly unnerving, and its left open to interpretation. This was a deliberate decision on Hitchcocks part, and with The Birds ending explained, its easy to see why it worked so well.

The Real-World Incident That Inspired The Birds

did melanie cause the birds to attack

Melanie Daniels and Mitch Brenner first meet in a pet store in the 1963 film The Birds. She then goes to his hometown of Bodega Bay to deliver two lovebirds to his sister Cathy for her birthday. As the birds start attacking, seemingly for no apparent reason, what starts out as a meet-cute turns into a psychological drama and the movie becomes a survival horror film. In the Brenner home, Melanie and the Brenner family battle to avoid the bird attacks. As the birds ominously watch, Melanie and the Brenners drive out of Bodega Bay at the end of the movie. Although it appears that the birds have ended their terror campaign, it is unclear if they will attack again in the future because there is no known cause.

While the birds motivations are never explained in the film, there is a biological reason for the bird attacks. In an article for ABC News, Alexandra Ludka explains that a similar incident to The Birds actually occurred around Monterey Bay, California in 1961. She writes that “hoards of disoriented seabirds rammed themselves into the sides of homes,” but the explanation for why was not found until decades later after the incident and the release of Hitchcocks film.

According to Ludka, following further events involving toxic mussels and animal stranding, scientists discovered that some algae release toxins that cause “amnesia, disorientation, and seizures” in animals that consume them. Thus, scientists now think that a flock of birds that had consumed the algae and experienced the toxin’s effects was what caused the Monterey Bay incident.

What Happens In The Birds’ Ending

did melanie cause the birds to attack

Socialite Melanie Daniels and her boyfriend Mitch Brenner barricade themselves in the Brenner family home with Mitch’s mother Lydia and his sister Cathy at the conclusion of The Birds. Swarms of birds attack the house throughout the night, attempting to breach the boarded-up windows and doors. Melanie discovers that the killer birds have broken through the roof when she goes upstairs to investigate a strange sound coming from the attic. She is viciously attacked and almost killed. Mitch insists on taking them all to San Francisco after saving her so Melanie can receive medical attention for her wounds.

Near the end of The Birds, Mitch is quietly getting the car ready for the trip to San Francisco when news comes over the radio that the bird attacks have spread to neighboring communities and that the army may need to get involved. Then, all of a sudden, the birds stop their attacks. Numerous birds perch in large numbers around the Brenner residence, gazing at Mitch and Melanie as they cautiously drive away in the car. It’s unclear why the birds have stopped attacking to allow them to leave, but it’s unsettling none the less, given that it suggests the aggressor birds are intelligent and that their actions are planned.

Why Did The Birds Attack?

In The Birds, the birds don’t appear to have a specific purpose when they begin to dive down and attack the people living in Bodega Bay. A major factor in the terrifying quality of this classic Hitchcock film The Birds is the mysterious nature of the attacks by the film’s titular birds. But Hitchcock provided a concrete reason for the attacks. To mark the 35th anniversary of the film, Camille Paglia penned a book about The Birds for the British Film Institute in 1998. Paglia cites Hitchcock to explain the birds’ motivation for attacking: they were seeking retribution on humans for mistreating the natural world.

Over time, this interpretation of nature taking revenge on humanity has only become more and more pertinent. Climate change is one way that nature has retaliated against human activity that continues to deplete the planet’s natural resources through killing animals, drilling for oil, and destroying rainforests. In the early 20th century, the march of industry was heralded as a major innovation, but all the factories were quickly polluting the air. After finally growing tired of the pollution, the bird-attacking assailants from The Birds descended from the sky to mutilate those who were in charge.


What caused the birds to attack in the birds movie?

The Birds ending is left open to interpretation, creating an unnerving atmosphere that adds to the movie’s unsettling nature. Hitchcock’s reason for the bird attacks is humanity’s failure to appreciate and protect nature, a theme that remains relevant today.

Why do the birds follow Melanie?

Melanie goes to Bodega Bay to pursue a romance with Mitch and ends up contending with his ex-girlfriend and his overbearing mother, in addition to a swarm of angry birds. More broadly, the birds could represent an indictment of the corrupt human race.

What caused the birds to go crazy?

Alfred Hitchcock heard of this event and used it as research material for this film which was then in progress. The real cause of the birds’ behavior was toxic algae, but that was not known back in the 1960s.

What happens at the end of the birds short story?

He plans to smoke his last remaining cigarette and turns on the radio, only to find it is silent as the whole world is under attack. du Maurier ends the story with Nat throwing the empty cigarette pack on the fire and watching the pack burn.