Ray Berwick; Trainer of Film Animals

From a Times Staff Writer

Ray Berwick, Hollywood animal trainer who put 25,000 animals through their paces for films like “The Birds” and “Birdman of Alcatraz,” has died. He was 75.

Berwick died Monday night at the Westlake Medical Center of a heart attack.

First an animal trainer for circuses and vaudeville, Berwick broke into movies in 1962 training birds for “Birdman of Alcatraz,” starring Burt Lancaster as a convict who became a world authority on birds.


In 1963, he trained 300 birds for Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Birds” about a California coastal town repeatedly attacked by birds.

Berwick was a pioneer in using positive reinforcement--food and petting--to get animals to perform. He produced Universal Studios’ first live animal show and created shows for the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

“In my work I’ve trained more than 25,000 animals and I’ve only lost one in an accident,” Berwick once told The Times. “One of the birds for ‘The Birds’ was crushed by a wagon.”

Berwick said some of his trained birds or animals were set free after their performance, others were sold, and a few were kept as his special pets.

Berwick is survived by his wife, Suzanne, a son, Brad David, and a daughter, Tammy.