While in a San Francisco pet shop, wealthy Melanie Daniels becomes attracted to Mitch Brenner, a young lawyer who is trying unsuccessfully to find a pair of lovebirds for his little sister Cathy. Acting on a sudden impulse, Melanie buys two of the birds and decides to deliver them to Mitch's home on an island in Bodega Bay. After secretly leaving the birds in the Brenner house, she is returning to the mainland by motor boat when a seagull swoops down on her, gashes her forehead, and then flies away. Mitch meets her at the mainland pier and brings her back to his home. The next day a group of birds attack Cathy and her friends during a birthday party. That evening hundreds of finches fly down a chimney and terrorize Melanie and the Brenners. Panic in the small town mounts as birds murder a chicken farmer by pecking him to death, create a flash fire at a gas station, and swarm over the local children as they leave school. Following the death of schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, most of the townspeople leave their homes and head for San Francisco. Mitch boards up all entrances to his home and awaits the onslaught. The birds dive against the house, tearing at shingles and gnawing at doors, but they are unable to get inside. When Melanie goes to the attic, however, she is attacked by a roomful of crows who have made a hole in the roof. Mitch manages to rescue her but realizes the house is no longer safe. With the coming of morning, the birds are momentarily quiet. Taking advantage of the silence, he puts Melanie and his family into his car and leaves for San Francisco as thousands of birds watch their departure.