Is it a coincidence that Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller "The Birds" was set just north of San Francisco? If a troubling increase in the area's population of California gulls continues, maybe not.
In a trend that has the city and local researchers worried, the San Francisco Bay Area gull population has exploded from 24 birds in 1980 to 53,000 in 2013, making it one of the largest in the world. According to the Bay Area News Group, the number has increased by 41 percent in the past two years alone.
"Prior to the 1980s, we didn't have any nesting California gulls here in the San Francisco Bay," Cheryl Strong, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained to the Bay Area News Group. "The number of gulls is a problem for us now because they both take over nesting sites of other birds and also eat these other birds."
To gauge the impact, U.S. Geological Survey workers fitted a local colony of Forster's tern chicks with radio transmitters in 2010. Forty percent of the tagged chicks were eaten by gulls.
"It's pretty common that we find just a small pile of bones and the radio transmitter," scientist Garth Herring told NPR.
At the San Jose Airport, officials have reported more than 180 bird collisions with planes, each causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. Airport officials are reportedly seeking permission to shoot the birds.
The gulls have also become bad for business at AT&T Park, home of the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants. For years, gulls have shown up during the ninth inning, awaiting a feast of abandoned nachos and hot dogs. The question of how the gulls know the game is ending has led to a host of theories ranging from the smell of garlic fries to the movement of the crowd to the sound of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. The gulls have even inspired a Twitter account.
"Don't ask me how, they just know," Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow told NPR. "They come in, and it's always with two outs to go in the ninth inning, and there they are."
But recently, the gulls have been showing up earlier. To make matters worse, gulls have reportedly been defecating on fans, bothering players and landing on the field during play.
"You're focused on the pitcher, but you definitely notice them," said Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.
In March, a swarm of hundreds swept through the stadium during the World Baseball Classic semifinal.
The Giants have considered hiring a falconer, but it would reportedly cost $8,000 per game. And as Jorge Costa, the Giants manager of operations, asked the San Jose Mercury News, what if a falcon killed some gulls on the field in front of families and on live TV?
As Fox Sports so eloquently put it: "Jorge Costa, believes the potential falcon-on-gull carnage would prove too gruesome for many fans. (As if watching the 2012 World Series champs completely bomb out this season wasn't painful enough.)"
Check out a few videos of San Francisco birds behaving badly in the slideshow below: