The BBC, citing Bird's agent, said Saturday the director had been suffering from anaplastic thyroid cancer and had died in her sleep.
Bird worked for several years at the Royal Court Theater before switching to TV in the mid-1980s. She racked up a string of credits on shows such as "Spooks" and "EastEnders."
Actor Robert Carlyle, who appeared in a number of Bird's films, tweeted Saturday that it's "such a sad day... farewell to my beautiful friend."
"Priest," Bird's 1994 debut feature about a traditional Catholic who begins questioning the church's values, won awards at the Toronto, Berlin and Edinburgh film festivals.