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The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . With Wingsby Mark Bittner
Synopses & Reviews
I'm standing on the front deck of an old cottage on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. The cottage, vine-covered and frail, is nestled within the immense and chaotically lush gardens that tumble down the hill's steep eastern face. Just to my right is a large cage containing three lime-green parrots with cherry-red heads. On top of the cage, another parrot prowls at liberty. In my left hand, I'm holding a cup filled with sunflower seeds. Clinging to the cup's rim are two more parrots who are making quick and expert work of the seeds. There are parrots on my right hand, on my shoulders, and on my head.
In front of me, on the limbs of a tall shrub, are another dozen or so. They watch me with eager eyes as I pass around a handful of seeds. One of them, determined to get my attention, flaps his wings furiously, causing the thin branch he's perched on to bounce up and down. Five more parrots eat from a small pile of seeds on the deck railing. To my far right, a gang of fifteen crowds around a large, seed-filled dish that sits on the thick growth of ivy climbing over the railing corner. Another ten sit on the power lines above me. In all, I'm surrounded by more than fifty parrots.
The birds on the lines start up an insistent, staccato squawking that grows louder and more anxious as those below gradually join in. A group of tourists, their faces lit with fascination, stop to stare. The squawking is getting so loud that one of the tourists has to shout his question.
"Don't you ever lose any?"
"They're not mine," I shout back, laughing. "They're wild."
"Wild? . . . Are you serious? Wild parrots in San Francisco?"
Before I can answer, the screaming hits a tremendous peak, and the entire flock bolts. In the scramble to leave, a few of the birds nearly collide with the startled, ducking tourists. The parrots continue to scream as they fly on stiff, frantic wings through a gap in a row of trees and disappear from view.
Yes. Wild parrots in San Francisco.
A Rolling Stone
The first time I saw them was on Russian Hill at a housecleaning job. I was on my knees, dusting an end table, when I noticed four brightly colored birds clinging to a small feeder that hung just outside the living room window. At first glance, I didn't know what I was looking at. Then it dawned on me: They were parrots. The birds must have sensed my excitement, for they immediately fled. I jumped to my feet and ran to the window, but the only trace of them that remained was the swinging feeder.
A few weeks later, I was astonished to see the same four birds again, this time in a tree that grew just outside the place where I was staying on Telegraph Hill. They were crawling around the tree's bushy limbs and eating its tiny cones. Completely bewildered, I walked as close to them as they would allow. I'd never known much about birds, so the parrots raised questions that I had no idea how to answer: How had they gotten to San Francisco? Were they someone's pets? What species were they? How could they stand the cold? The last question puzzled me most. San Francisco's weather is generally moderate year-round, but I assumed that anything less than a hothouse environment would kill a tropical bird. Maybe they weren't parrots. I'd always thought of parrots as large birds, but these were only about a foot long, nearly half of w
The author describes his arrival in San Francisco as a teenager, his growing fascination with a flock of wild parrots that make their home on the city's Telegraph Hill, his determination to earn the birds' trust, his evolution into the local wild parrot expert, and the documentary film that transformed his life when he fell in love with the filmmaker. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
The author describes his fascination with a flock of wild parrots that live on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, his evolution into the local wild parrot expert, and his relationship with a documentary filmmaker.
About the Author
MARK BITTNER is the subject of a documentary film, also titled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, directed by Judy Irving. The film qualified for consideration in the “Best Feature Documentary” category in the 2003 Academy Awards. Mark still lives in San Francisco on Telegraph Hill. Visit the book’s website at www.wildparrotsbook.com and the film’s at www.pelicanmedia.org.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
A rolling stone — Mansion on the hill — A joyful encounter — A question of trust — Mandela — The science of it — Dogen — Everything changes — Bucky — Paco and company — A walk on the wild side — Rage against the light — Tupelo — Back out in the world — Free as a bird — Fleeting happiness — Snyder — Act naturally — Consiousness explained — A late fledge.
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