Back in January -- when it seemed like you couldn't get through one day without reading about a rash of bizarre bird deaths -- you would have been forgiven for adding 'The Birds' to your Netflix queue in the hopes of finding out ways to survive the coming birdpocalypse. The 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film remains one of the scariest cautionary tales of all time, if only because of its mystery: Hitch based the film, in part, on a 1961 incident in Monterey Bay, California, where seabirds rammed themselves into houses. Fifty years later, it seems that the impetus behind the bizarre occurrence has been discovered.
"I am pretty convinced that the birds were poisoned," said ocean environmentalist Sibel Bargu of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to USA Today, presumably while a thunderclap exploded behind her.

The cause of the poisoning? Not a platinum blonde looking for revenge, but plankton. According to Bargu and her team, who surveyed the stomach contents of turtles and seabirds taken from Monterey Bay in 1961, "toxin-making algae were present in 79% of the plankton that the creatures ate." The toxin created was nerve-damaging, which meant the birds suffered from confusion, seizures and eventual death.

According to USA Today, a similar toxin killed four people in Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1987, after they ingested contaminated mussels.

In a circle of life twist, the birds likely ate infected anchovies, which had eaten the plankton. And how did the plankton get infected themselves? Likely from leaky septic tanks, which were installed in the early 1960s after the housing boom in Monterey Bay.

[via USA Today]

[Photo: Everett Collection]

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