The Birdman of Alcatraz: Robert Stroud’s Incarceration at Alcatraz Island

Table of Contents:

Welcome to the enthralling world of Alcatraz Island and its infamous inhabitants. Today, we’re delving into the gripping history of one of the most enigmatic figures to have been confined to Alcatraz. The question we’ll be answering today hails from The Alcatraz Island Trivia Quiz.

So join us as we uncover the compelling stories and myths surrounding the Birdman of Alcatraz.

Here’s Our Question of the Day

See if you can answer this question from The Alcatraz Island Trivia Quiz before reading on.

The Notorious Birdman of Alcatraz: Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud, also known as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz,’ is one of the most infamous inmates to have been held at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

Born in 1890, Stroud gained notoriety for his extensive knowledge of canaries and his reputation as a convicted murderer. His criminal history began in 1909, when he was found guilty of manslaughter after a bar fight turned fatal in Juneau, Alaska.

Sentenced to 12 years in prison, Stroud’s violent behavior led to him being transferred to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, where he committed a second murder in 1916. This led to his death sentence, which was later commuted to life imprisonment by President Woodrow Wilson.

During his time at Leavenworth, Stroud developed a passion for studying birds and their diseases. He authored two books on the subject and even developed a cure for a common poultry ailment, earning him a reputation as an accomplished ornithologist.

In 1942, Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz, where he was not allowed to keep birds but continued his research in solitary confinement. Despite being widely known as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz,’ it is a common misconception that he actually cared for birds while imprisoned there. In reality, his bird experiments were conducted during his time at Leavenworth.

Stroud remained at Alcatraz for over 17 years before being transferred back to the medical center at the US Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island, where he eventually died in 1963.

Misconceptions About the Birdman of Alcatraz

Mickey Cohen

Mickey Cohen was indeed a notorious figure, associated with organized crime and deserving of a place in the history books. But when it comes to the infamous Birdman of Alcatraz, Cohen is not the one. This misconception may have arisen due to the notoriety surrounding Cohen’s criminal activities, but Alcatraz was not the home to the Birdman Mickey Cohen.

Alvin Karpis

Alvin Karpis was a member of the infamous Barker-Karpis gang during the 1930s. While he was indeed imprisoned at Alcatraz, he was not the Birdman of Alcatraz. Karpis may be associated with the island due to his criminal history, but the Birdman’s story belongs to a different inmate.

George “Machine Gun” Kelly

George “Machine Gun” Kelly was a well-known American gangster during the Prohibition era. While he was also a prisoner at Alcatraz, he was not the infamous Birdman associated with the island. The misconception might stem from the notorious nature of Kelly’s criminal activities, leading to confusion about his connection to the Birdman of Alcatraz.


So, the famous prisoner known as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ who was incarcerated on the island of Alcatraz was none other than Robert Stroud. His story is a remarkable part of the history of this notorious prison.

Alcatraz Island has been the subject of numerous legends and tales, making it an enduring symbol of the American justice system. The history of this island and its famous inmates continues to capture the imagination of people around the world.

If you want to test your knowledge further, why not take the Alcatraz Island Trivia Quiz? It’s a great way to learn more about this iconic location and the many infamous figures associated with it. Go on, give it a try!

Professor Leonard Whitman