Robert Stroud, a.k.a. ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’

Updated: Sep 16

Stroud, made famous by film legend Burt Lancaster in the 1962 movie ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’ – was a genius who wrote several noted studies of bird species and diseases, ironically from inside his own cage.

Stroud was also a sociopathic pedophile – and murderer – who killed an Alaskan bartender who had only ‘tipped’ Stroud’s girl $2- after spending

night with her. ($10 was ‘customary’. . .)

Convicted of manslaughter, and sent to prison in Washington state, Stroud then attempted to kill a fellow convict by stabbing him six times with a steel ‘shank’. Stroud was then transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, where he fatally stabbed a prison guard in the heart when his mother was turned away from a visit. Found guilty of first degree murder, Stroud was sentenced to ‘total isolation -until death by hanging.’

As the gallow’s were being readied, Stroud’s mother appealed to President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, and Stroud’s sentence was commuted to ‘Life Imprisonment -without possibility of parole.’

Robert Stroud was actually known among the Kansas cons as the ‘Canary Doctor’, as he developed his scientific interests after finding an injured hatchling in his tiny, personal exercise yard.

Robert ‘the Birdman of Alcatraz’ Stroud, never was allowed to keep bird’s during his 17 years on ‘the Rock’ – spending 11 of them confined to the room pictured.

Stroud spent 54 years total in prison, 44 years in isolation!

Having become a curious celebrity by the success of the movie, Stroud may have been released from prison . . .however when asked by the parole board why he should be let out, Stroud responded –  “because I still have people I need to kill. . .”

In an ironic twist, when the infamous ‘Birdman of Alcatraz” succumed to a kidney condition in the prison hospital at Springfield, Missourri on November 21, 1963 – it hardly made the news . . . Stroud died one day before the assasination of President John F. Kennedy.


 'Welcome to 'the Rock'! I'm Ian Craig, publisher, National Park Service Certified Program Guide, Alcatraz Historian, and Media Producer. And, welcome to our newly revamped, and ever-evolving, destination web portal. Alcatraz Island is currently re-opened on a limited basis, and tours are limited to outside areas. No entry to Prison Building, Shops, etc. So, we've endeavored to create Virtual Tours for you to explore this historical island, to assist in planning a visit, and to share the unique opportunity to meet, through our vast video interview collection - 14 former prisoners, former guards, prison minister, and family members who grew up on the island! Stay Tuned!


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