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Santa Cruz Sentinel (18/Aug/1961) - Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes


  • article: Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes
  • author(s): Wally Trabing
  • newspaper: Santa Cruz Sentinel (18/Aug/1961)
  • keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds (1963)




Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes

Thousands of Birds Floundering in Streets

A massive flight of sooty shearwaters, fresh from a feast of anchovies, collided with shoreside structures from Pleasure Point to Rio del Mar during the night.

Residents, especially in the Pleasure Point and Capitola area were awakened about 3 a.m. today by the rain of birds, slamming against their homes.

Dead, and stunned seabirds littered the streets and roads in the foggy, early dawn. Startled by the invasion, residents rushed out on their lawns with flashlights, then rushed back inside, as the birds flew toward their light.

When the light of day made the area visible, residents found the streets covered with birds. The birds disgorged bits of fish and fish skeletons over the streets and lawns and housetops, leaving an overpowering fishy stench.

The most learned explanation of the bird tragedy came this morning from Ward Russell, museum zoologist at the University of California.

He said the shearwaters generally live in the southern hemisphere. As far as they are concerned this is their winter flocking area.

Often when they are disturbed while feeding they will rise in flocks from the water. A blinding fog covered the coast last night and this morning.

"They probably became confused and lost and headed for the light," he said. The only light available was the street lights and overnight lights in some homes and businesses.

Russell said that this is a fairly rare phenomena and it takes certain atmospheric conditions to cause this confusion. He said that during very foggy conditions the lighthouses along the coast are struck by the thousands of seabirds.