Study Guide

The Birds Summary

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The Birds Summary

The Birds opens with … birds.

They're just not attacking anyone yet.

Rich and bored socialite Melanie Daniels is trying to buy a bird in a San Francisco bird shop. Mitch Brenner, a lawyer, mistakes her for a salesperson and asks her if he can purchase lovebirds for his sister's birthday. She goes along with the pretense, but it turns out he knows who she is. Mitch has seen Melanie in court and knows all about her party-girl lifestyle and fondness for pranks.

Translation: they're both lying to each other. Also—surprise!—they're flirting. That's what we call a meet-cute.

Melanie is not psyched about being tricked, but she kind of liked the flirting part. Mitch didn't get his lovebirds, so Melanie buys some and somewhat obsessively tracks Mitch down to his home in Bodega Bay, an hour or so drive up the coast. She takes a boat across the bay, does a little breaking and entering, and leaves the lovebirds inside with a note for Cathy, Mitch's sister.

So far, so good: a sweetly developing love story in a picturesque beach town.

Just don't get too comfortable. It's Hitchcock, after all.

Mitch sees Melanie leaving through the back door and boating back across the water. He drives around the bay to catch her and meets her again just as she's slammed by a seagull.

It's about time.

Mitch patches up her wound and invites her to dinner. She meets Mitch's nervous and clingy mom, Lydia, and Cathy (who's annoyingly saccharine, as kids in movies in 1963 tended to be). Cathy begs Melanie to attend her birthday party the next day, and she reluctantly agrees.

After dinner, Melanie spends the night at the home of Annie Hayworth, a local schoolteacher who has an extra room. Oh, Annie is Mitch's ex-girlfriend. Awkward. Annie's cool about it, though.


While they're having a drink and talking about Mitch, they hear a thud. A gull has crashed into Annie's front door and broken its neck.

You can see where this is going. As Hitchcock would say, "The Birds is coming."

At Cathy's birthday party the next day, crazed seagulls crash the party, terrifying the kiddos and breaking all of the balloons (the horror!). That evening, when Melanie is at Mitch's house, hundreds of sparrows pour down the chimney and attack everyone. The next morning, Lydia goes to a nearby farm to chat with Mr. Fawcett the farmer and finds him dead in his room, broken windows and dead birds everywhere. His eyes have been pecked out.


Lydia is freaked out by the bloody eye holes. She staggers out of the house, drives home somehow, and asks Melanie to check on Cathy at school. Sure enough, the crows are massing outside the school. She and Annie organize the kids to try to escape, and they all run down the road toward town, the crows attacking and pecking at the kids.

Enough horror for you yet?

The kids finally get to safety. Melanie goes to a local restaurant, where some of the townsfolk doubt whether the birds are really attacking. The birds helpfully answer them by attacking a gas station and precipitating a huge fire and explosion. Melanie and Mitch manage to escape the swarming birds and run to Annie's house to collect Cathy.

Guess what? You got it: Annie has been killed by the birds. (First dumped by Mitch, then killed by birds? It's not a good movie for that gal.)

Time to play defense. Melanie, Mitch, Lydia, and Cathy board up Mitch's house in hopes of staving off the next bird attack. They have some luck, though the birds are crafty, and Mitch has to fight them off as they try to break in. Eventually, the birds chill out for a bit, and everyone goes to sleep.

You didn't think that would last, did you?

In the middle of the night, Melanie hears rustling. She goes upstairs, violating the first rule of horror movies: never go exploring mysterious noises on your own. Sure enough, she discovers the birds have gotten through the attic roof, and she gets trapped in the room as they attack her. They rip her and her beautiful clothes to shreds. Mitch rescues her, but she's semi-catatonic from shock. Mitch decides they need to get her to a hospital in San Francisco. So, he goes out to get the car and finds birds … sitting quietly … everywhere.


A radio reports that Bodega Bay has been evacuated and that the birds are spreading to nearby communities. No one knows why the birds have suddenly gone crazy. Mitch, Melanie, Cathy, Lydia, and the lovebirds in their cage slowly drive away through all the birds.

In the end, Batman shows up, and there's a massive bat vs. bird battle for the skies.

Yeah, no. No bats, no heroes, no explanation. Just birds sitting and watching.

That's it.

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