‘Intimate’ and ‘colorful’: Alfred Hitchcock on why he filmed ‘The Birds’ in Bodega Bay

The filming of the 1963 classic brought Hollywood glamour and excitement to Sonoma County.|

Amid the bustle of rugged crew members and hundreds of live and prop birds, Alfred Hitchcock arrived daily to the Bodega Bay set of “The Birds” in a black limousine, a dark suit and polished black shoes. Although his suave attire contrasted with his surroundings, he was exactly where he wanted to be.

“I chose Bodega Bay because it is small, intimate, isolated, colorful — the sort of place made for this picture. The people are just right for the scenes I need,” Hitchcock told The Press Democrat while filming in 1962.

It wasn’t Hitchcock’s first time in Sonoma County. “The master of suspense” came to Santa Rosa two decades earlier to film the 1943 psychological thriller “Shadow of a Doubt,” his favorite of the more than 50 films he made.

The filming of “The Birds,” starring Tippi Hedren, brought Hollywood glamour and excitement to the towns of Bodega and Bodega Bay, along with an influx of economic activity. Some local residents are even featured in the film as extras.

Potter School House and the Tides restaurant are some of the local landmarks used in “The Birds,” which filmed in the area in March 1962.

Mitch Zankich, owner of the Tides back then, allowed Hitchcock to use his restaurant for the movie on three conditions, allegedly: the town would be called Bodega Bay in the movie, the lead role would be named Mitch, and Zankich would receive a speaking role. Hitchcock complied, said Marco Galazzo, general manager of the Tides Wharf and Restaurant.

“Bodega Bay was already a well-known spot, and the Tides was already a well-known place back then, but (the movie) definitely boosted the local economy at the time and it still carries on,” Galazzo said.

News coverage during filming reported everything from Hitchcock’s demands — more chickens, more grass — to the $400 fine he paid for exceeding the number of birds allowed in his U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit.

About 500 live crows, ravens, chickens and sea gulls were trapped for use by mid-March 1962, according to a Press Democrat report.

In 2016, the Library of Congress picked “The Birds” for preservation due to its cultural significance. Hedren, 91, comes to Bodega Bay every few years to greet fans. And bird watchers from all over flock to the area to view a wide variety of bird species.

“A lot of people definitely still visit Bodega Bay because of ‘The Birds,’” Galazzo said.

See the photo gallery above for photos of Hitchcock and local places that inspired “The Birds” film.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor