Stroud spent most of his adolescence in Alaska as a teenage runaway. It was there that he met a prostitute nearly twice his age, took up pimping and fatally shot a colleague during a drunken brawl in 1908. At the time of his first murder conviction, he was was just 19-years-old. Were it not for the mercy of President Woodrow Wilson, Robert Stroud would have been hanged in 1920 for murdering a prison guard while serving out his sentence at the Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary. But as it was, Wilson commuted his sentence to life in solitary confinement, much of which Stroud spent on Alcatraz Island, where he wrote and published several books about ornithology. The self-taught hobbyist later earned the nickname "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and his Digest on the Diseases of Birds, published in 1943, became a classic in the field.