THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL


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The Book

The cover of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, with a picture of green parrots sitting on a wire stretched across a blue sky

Mark Bittner watched the wild parrot flock for several years with tremendous curiosity. Then one day a few of them flew to his fire escape, and his whole life changed.

In January, 2004, Harmony Books published Mark Bittner's memoir In January, 2004, Harmony Books published Mark Bittner's memoir The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story ...with Wings. The paperback version was published by Three Rivers Press in 2005.

Read an excerpt from the book about Mark's experiences with the cherry-heads:

...The entire flock landed on the fire escape. All twenty-six of them. I was ecstatic. It had been years since I felt that kind of joy. The day before, when the first three came to the bowl, I'd been about ten feet away from them. Since they'd been comfortable with that, I carefully maintained the same distance now. The flock started coming every day, and each time they did, I'd move a step or two closer to the Dutch door that led to the fire escape. After about a week, I was right up against it. I slowly eased myself down to the kitchen floor and sat in front of the lower window to watch. I did not go unnoticed. The parrots kept one eye trained on me at all times. Whenever I made even the smallest motion, they bolted instantly and in unison back to the trees and power lines. After a few minutes of cautious waiting, they would return one by one to resume their feasting and fighting.

The scene at the bowl was chaos. They were screaming furiously and running all around the area directly in front of me. They had large, floppy feet, and I got a big kick out of watching their clumsy, plodding runs across the fire escape floor. Their colors were luminous. The green had a shimmer that was almost psychedelic, while the red was a bright fire-engine red. I was struck by their eyes again. In a lot of the native birds I'd seen, the iris was nearly as dark as the pupil, which made the eye appear empty and impassive. But the cherry heads had a light iris, and the black pupil stood out distinctly. I could see their emotions, which were constantly shifting from playfulness to curiosity to rage. Fights were breaking out everywhere. A bird would jump on the lip of the bowl and lunge at the bird next to him, stabbing him with his beak if there was any resistance. They used their beaks on one another quite freely. Birds perched on the bowl were often attacked from behind with a bite on the leg or wing, or a yank on the tail. The bitten bird would scream loudly and fly away. I was totally captivated. It was like watching the Three Stooges, only much funnier.

Find parrots photos and updates on the flock and their habitat >>


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