Here's a good word to keep in your back pocket: ornithophobia. It means fear of birds, and the psychiatric condition was famously celebrated — or perhaps stoked — in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1963 horror film The Birds.
The film chronicles a series of unexplained and vicious bird attacks in the small town of Bodega Bay, California. (It's supposedly based on a true story. But aren't they all?) Hitchcock structured the movie as a standard horror show, but also sprinkled in his usual weirdness concerning men, women, and repressed sexuality.
As it turns out, the good director also dropped some dubious science into his signature scary bird movie. In this week's edition of Bad Science, Seeker's ongoing exploration of the scientific elements in famous films, host Ethan Edenberg is joined by Kimball Garrett, ornithology collections manager and resident bird nerd at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
Writer, actor and stand-up comic Chris Fairbanks also sits in on this week's panel to read from the screenplay, contribute bird puns, and speculate darkly on the homicidal instincts of our avian brethren.
As a museum ornithologist, Garrett's job involves getting people interested in birds. As such, he admits up front that he harbors a slight prejudice against the famous film.
“People cite the movie all the time as a reason they're afraid of birds,” he said. “It's a horror movie, and it's totally unrealistic. Birds don't do those things. But if it works as a horror movie, that's the whole point, I guess.”