THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL


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This comment area is closed to new submissions. Visit ITVS.org to continue the conversation about this film.
Many people have written in to ask about Mark and the parrots' experiences since filming concluded; find answers and updates on The Film, The Parrots Background and Updates and filmmaker Judy Irving and Mark Bittner's Q&A pages.
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7/27/2010
Richard Buckley
Cheltenham, England

What gives a parrot comfort, escaping to the wild? Affection is the answer and not to be reviled. Don't think a parrot's senseless, no feelings past his beak; A bird brain's not unconscious, though he can barely speak. He may experience terror when hawks are in the air; You could provide some shelter to show you really care. The parrot would be grateful and peck you on the cheek, While squawking in your earhole "True love is what I seek!"

06/02/2010
Gloria Campos
Los Angeles, CA

I LOVE birds!!! My favorite one that I had was a Mitred Conure. From looking at your pictures it seems like that's what some of them are or Cherry Head Conures. I have not been able to find a breeder of Mitred Conures in all the years that I have been looking for one. By any chance, do you breed them or know anybody that does? I would really appreciate your response.

5/8/2010
PJ
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

I ENJOY MOST NATURE FILMS AND THIS WAS A LOVE STORY. I HATE THE SAD PARTS AND IF MARK WAS AROUND THOSE TWO WEEKS BEFORE CONNOR WAS SAID MISSING, I THINK HE WOULD HAVE LIVED MUCH LONGER. CONNOR WAS USED TO MARK FEEDING HIM AND MAYBE HE WAS WEEK FROM NOT EATING OR EVEN SAD AND HIS GUARD WAS DOWN SO THAT HAWK GOT HIM. AS MARK SAID, CONNOR WAS NOT SO CONCERNED WITH THE HAWK LIKE THE OTHER RED HEAD PARROTS. MEANWHILE, I TOO AM ALSO FEELING WILD BIRDS.......BUT THEY ARE ONLY DUCKS. ONE OF MY MOMMA DUCKS GOT GRABBED AND EATTEN BY A FOX WHILE SHE WAS ON HER EGGS AND I HAD BEEN OUT OF TOWN FOR A MONTH. NATURE CAN BE CRUEL. GOD BLESS THOSE WHO HELP NATURE THRIVE. NATURE NEEDS OUR HELP WITH ALL THAT MAN IS DISTROYING.

03/01/2009
Carol Stevens
Thousand Oaks, CA

There are also a band of these Parrots by Mugu Rock in Malibu called Sycamore canyon, they are a little different in color they have black heads, called Nandy conures. I find this so interesting that these parrots are able to survive and mate. Beautiful Birds.

02/05/2009
Michael Rosenberg
Brisbane, CA

I teach at Balboa High School in San Francisco, and we too have a flock of wild parrots. They live in a palm tree in front of a classroom window, on the third floor of the school. It used to be my classroom. I used to love to look out and see them fly around. The students get a real kick out of their story.

02/05/2009
Tony
San Francisco, CA

My wife and I saw The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill again, probably the 3rd showing since it came out. Each time it has struck a chord whether spiritual, emotional, humorous or just nostalgic. This is a special enduring film not just about parrots. Thank you, Independent Lens for sharing the journey again.

12/14/2008
James Stehr
Alameda CA

Dear Mark:

My wife, Sharon, and I are life-long residents of the SF Bay Area, and have been in love with San Francisco for many years. We are "bird people," having had parakeets, finches, conures as pets sequentially for the past 15 years. We've owned two Goffin's Cockatoos for the past 5 years. We love them - our "kids" - so much! OK. Not to ramble the bird thing, but we watched Judy's "Wild Parrots..." DVD last eve, and we were utterly delighted. We agreed that we must offer our sincere thanks and compliments to you both. My congratulations to you for having the courage or tenacity to hold out on career choice until you fell into your destiny - the flock! Your time with them, your writing and your movie has helped us and will help many, many others understand the magic that links us humans with the birds and other animals with whom we share life on this fragile planet. That's a VERY valuable lesson and enrichment of life. Warmest regards to you and Judy, and all the best in your future. -Jim & Sharon Stehr.

08/04/2008
Peter and Amy Charig
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Mark and Judy,

Thank you so much for bringing this beautiful story to the world. My wife and I watched your documentary on a whim, and were astounded by it's beauty. The care and concern you've shown this flock is astounding, especially since your intention has always been to preserve their happiness and their freedom. What is even more beautiful is how wonderfully they've responded to your attentions.

My wife and I recently travelled to San Francisco for my work. I had almost no free time, and my only sightseeing interest was to climb Telegraph Hill and to see where this entire story took place. Well, we did, and we were treated not only to beautiful scenery and foliage, but also the beautiful birds winging overhead. We enjoyed their sights and sounds from a distance. Much to our surprise, we encountered them again on the Embarcadero, and were able to enjoy them much more visibly. The pictures we have from this experience will remain our favorites for years to come.

I applaud and appreciate your efforts to keep these animals away from the general public's destructive nature. While most people are well intentioned, they don't recognize the damage their affection can do. The birds are lucky to have such devoted friends as you. Thank you!

06/19/2008
Neha Patel
Fort Worth, Texas

I saw this film almost a week ago and have thought about it every day since. I love birds and have grown up with them for the past 22 years of my life. I truly understand the connection that Mark had with these feathered friends and appreciate you for making such a beautiful film.

02/19/2008
Carol Petersen
Lancaster, PA

Thank you so much for making the film. As a lifelong birder who lives in a place with cold, snowy winters, it was pure joy to see these beautiful birds and learn their story. Thank you, Mark, for your good heart and kind soul, and for all the time and love you invested in protecting these birds. The last scene when you revealed that Judy and Mark ended up together made my day! I am still smiling. May God bless you both with many more creative projects. It took away the sting of learning of sweet Connor's demise. Your film was so poignant, the viewers ended up attached to these creatures we only saw through your eyes.

12/21/2007
Kristal Benson
Romeoville, IL

Mark and Judy, you are affecting people even today, as I just saw your movie. Mark, I deeply appreciate your intelligent compassion and thank you Judy for wanting to show the world Mark's love for the conures through a lens and doing such a heartfelt job of it. As for the birds, Mark I want you to know that I support you 100% on your decision to pass an ordinance against feeding the birds. I was just in San Francisco and saw the gorgeous parrots in a tree. It was in fact the highlight of my trip to California! I thought of Connor and cried; I wanted to stay there forever and protect the parrots even thought there was nothing I could really do. As I returned to a computer I read that you reside in Telegraph Hill and are the angel(s) watching over the birds there. I have a three legged cat, fish and an African Grey so it was really awesome to see the conures trust you like they did.

I know that birds can bite as mine does at times but he doesn't mean it. If a child were around the child would be bitten immediately! I could see the birds biting children, as children can be a nuisance. I understand that you cannot feed the parrots because of the awful things others have done to the birds such as steal them, and I despise most people for that very reason, that they do not respect animals or the Earth. You have put that law in to place to protect the innocent parrots so that rather than lose them all to man we lose few to nature. I think you are so humble and because of your love for the parrots you have made such a selfless decision. I know that you will continue to watch your friends from afar and that they will be safer with you there in some way. I worry that some parrots will starve, but only you know the answer to that and you have impacted their lives in the most beautiful way possible. Do not feel responsible for Natalie or Tupelu (sp?). You have affected me, the birds and others all in a positive way and it is so much greater for the benefit of everything that is connected. It hurts me to see trees get cut d own and any animal in pain makes my heart hurt deeply so I know how you have felt. It hurts when we are not there for something so innocent and we think we failed them, but because we have done something good we are still far better off respecting life than feeling nothing and not making any impact at all. Thank you for reminding me that I am not the only one who cares and for trying to save the cedar tree with tact. Personally, I would have killed somebody if they'd cut that tree down in front of me. You have reminded me that I am not the only one who cares and that one person (or two) can do so much for a part of the world.

10/24/2007
Clara O. Williams
San Francisco,CA

We moved to SF two months ago and rented a small flat in Telegraph Hill.Shortly after walking into the street I heard a familiar sound and turned my head up:Parrots! I screamed.My husband asked me how did I know there were parrots in Telegraph Hill.I didn't know!I just saw them!It felt like home, as I was born in South America.After seeing Ms.Irving's movie and reading Mr. Bittner's book I consider the flock as another group of forced immigrants (just like me),that have adapted well to new conditions. I am an animal eye specialist (veterinary ophthalmologist) and I appreciated Mr. Bittner accurate observation and interpretation of the parrots eyes: pupil size, iris color, periocular area, etc. Most important, these two works of art (the book and the movie) raise awareness about urban wildlife. Long live the parrost flock!

10/24/2007
Anne E.
Cleveland OH

I am in the process of adopting two dogs from a rescue shelter. I believe animals have consciousness and awareness. I have always felt a deep spiritual connection to animals and am entering a Veterinary Technology degree program because it's more important to care for animals than to make a ton of money. Like Mark, people sometimes think I'm different, but I prefer to think if we all had more respect for animals - domesticated and wild - we'd have more respect for other humans. Thanks for the inspiring film. It was beautiful to learn that Mark and Judy married.

8/14/07
Y. Dexter

Mark, While flipping through channels I just happened to catch a portion of your film this morning. We have had our pet cockatiel "Pepper" for 18 years and he is now showing signs of illness. Watching your film brought me to tears because we have been fans of birds for over 20 years and know that they are smarter and more loving than most of the general public will ever know. You get it, so be proud and know that you made a difference. I can't wait to see the entire program. I now want to visit San Franciso just to see the birds. Thank You.

7/31/07
Corine Bowers
Minneapolis, MN

I watched this movie on PBS yesterday. I really loved it. I found myself sobbing at the end, though and it was hard for me to shake my sad feelings. I'm especially sensitive to animals and nature.The movie had a magical feel to it, from the visuals to the words. Kudos to Mark for his fortitude in loving the birds. His carrying of the heavy sacks of seed up all those steps, just for the joy of sharing them with the parrots. Exceptional.

7/31/07
Bliss Bak
Vancouver Canada

What an intensely beautiful and emotional film. Its centre is love. Even though I sort of believe Conner was not torn apart, I still fret for him. Mark was right though- Conner's life was tragic. But I think his death was too. I can't help but feel Connor felt abandoned and gave up.As for the feelings radiating from Tupelo- that happened with my cat Max a couple of days before he died. He licked my face all over as he used to and all I felt from him was a flood of gratitude. So much love. Thank you for this awesome film.

7/3/07
Fazeel Gareeboo
Orlando, Florida

Wow !

This has to be one of the most moving films I have seen ... ever. For me, it's compatable to, but better than 'My Chinese concubine'. Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this film to us.

6/28/07
vanessa
orlando, florida

THANK YOU. I just watched the documentary and it was so touching that I'm actually crying. mark, you are so beautiful. you are a hero. I know what u felt was tupelo talking to you. I believe animals communicate on a deeper level, without clutter in their minds, no doubt about it. I call it LOVE. If the parrotts are there, let them live. let's not be 'racist'.. you give me hope in mankind. I loved the end when u cut ur hair. what a perfect ending to an amazing and powerful documentary. thank u for showing the world who you are. I loved it when u talked about the waterfall and the drops of water.. so true. u are truly blessed. i'm jobless and have been homeless and I wait on guidance from God..I could relate in so many ways. u gave me hope in a lot of things actually. thank u very much. :)

6/28/07
Karen
Melbourne Beach, FL

In my area, Brevard County (the Space Coast), I have seen about 20+ wild green parrots that reside happily year round in Eau Gallie primarily in a huge, old tree near the marina. I worry for them during the hurricanes. Wherever the go, they migrate back after the storm. I visit Key Biscayne quite often near Miami and am told by residents that blue headed parrots live there like Connor. I will search for them and report back.

6/26/07
ERIKA
NEW YORK, NY

This was the most touching film I have seen in quite a while. Mark makes me belive that there is goodness in man. What a lucky man Mark is to have been in the company of these beautiful, quirky birds. Tupelo will live forever in my memory and Marks gentle and loving walks with her in the garden will be a vision I will not and cannot ever forget. Thank you Mark for being a true man.

6/22/07
Diane Temple
Appleton, WI

Hello,
I want to tell you how much I enjoyed watching the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill! This story is just amazing! Mark is a hero for being an advocate for these parrots! I'm going to have to get the DVD- there's too much in this to remember everything and take it all in.

Thank you for making this documentary, on of the best I have ever seen!

6/22/07
Jim West
honolulu,Hawaii

Although there have been many great films from independent lens,this one was simply the best! A sign of a great film is that you cant help thinking about it afterward & for days to come! I was most taken by the part of the film where mark talked about how he cared about tupelo in her final days. To carry her out to see flowers and warm in the sun,to place her next to him in his bed in her final hours to comfort her & care for her with such love and devotion..wow..the world needs more unselfish people like mark! And i thought it was such a great ending to have mark and judy become bf & gf by the end of filming. hmm..perhaps i wont cut my hair until i find a girlfriend too!

6/19/07
Jim West
honolulu, Hawaii

Although there have been many great films from independent lens,this one was simply the best! A sign of a great film is that you cant help thinking about it afterward & for days to come! I was most taken by the part of the film where mark talked about how he cared about tupelo in her final days. To carry her out to see flowers and warm in the sun,to place her next to him in his bed in her final hours to comfort her & care for her with such love and devotion..wow..the world needs more unselfish people like mark! And i thought it was such a great ending to have mark and judy become bf & gf by the end of filming. hmm..perhaps i wont cut my hair until i find a girlfriend too!

6/11/07
D.K. Heinemeyer

Thank you Judy and Mark for such a wonderfully moving film. I enjoyed everything about WPOTH, the story line and the gorgeous cinematography. I was hoping the ending wouldn't be sad, and worried about where Mark would end up. I cried and laughed as the last 15 minutes unfolded.

It was fascinating to see people develop close bonds with birds, you could see the how they loved one another. Anyone who thinks animals have no feelings is sorely mistaken. Oh, how they enrich our lives, I would truly be less of a person without the love of my (indoor) cats.


6/11/07
JJ Rae

Loved the story and film.
I have some friends on the about.com birding forum- one (in San Diego) has adopted a wild coot that is unable to fly and migrate with the other coots. He makes a special trip to the marina to feed him every day, and has been doing this for several years.

The other one lives in England, and takes in corvids that need rehabilitation and/or ongoing care.

Both are special people, and I think they would make good subjects for your next documentary.


6/11/07
Paul
Westwego, Louisiana

GREAT MOVIE, Birds Rule !!
We Have Wild Quakers in New Orleans

Years ago when my wife first started talking about getting a bird, I was not in favor of that idea. A few years ago, my wife ended up with two Parakeets (dark blue and light blue named Gum Drop and Jelly Bean). Her sons took her to the pet store for Christmas, and when they came home, those birds were so scared they would not make a sound. I noticed that when I would run water in the sink, that they would relax and talk to each other. Those two birds then decided that they wanted to sit on my left shoulder, and that's where they have been sitting for a few years now. I still tell them that they are a couple of cute little Con Artists, that just reeled me in. I call them my little "Feathered Friends", and enjoy being part of their flock.

Those birds have such individual personality, and provide me with both relaxation and entertainment. They have changed the way that I though of birds, and I enjoy having them.


6/11/07
Las Vegas, Nevada

What a great film! I loved it!


6/7/07
AL MILLHEISER
FLORISSANT, MO

As the owner of 2 parrots, I was naturally drawn to The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill. I have the DVD version and it includes extras that nearly equal the length of the movie. One extra is an Homage To Connor which presents a different verson of his ultimate fate. This version helped me and may help others in dealing with the loss. Do I think parrots share human emotions such as loneliness, love and grief? Absolutely. This is a wonderful true story with a spiritual message: we are all God's creatures and share a common consciousness which is a manifestation of God.

6/7/07
Bill Larsen
Southington, CT

Regarding WPOTH, there appears to be an older film by the same name as Judy Irving's more recent documentary (aired on Independent Lens - May 2007). How can I buy a copy of the documentary. All links appear to lead to the older film - who cares about that!

6/7/07
Uma
Toronto, Canada

Thank you to Judy, Mark & Parrots for cocreating this tender and wise film. I am deeply moved.

6/7/07
Georgiana
Fallbrook, CA

The Parrots of Telegraph Hill was beautiful, poignant, superb. Mark's narrative on the death of Connor was especially relevant for me. Some years ago, I had adopted a canary, Sammy, whose owner had died. Sammy was an English Frill canary, a beautiful little bird, and although I had always had cats, I knew they could co-exist if I were vigilant and Sammy's cage was secured. Sammy sang all day long, filling the house with his lovely songs. One morning I heard a commotion, and was horrified to find Sammy's cage overturned; Alexander, my cat, was the culprit. I ran and picked up the cage, Sammy was on the bottom, struggling to get up. As he righted himself, he burst into song, a song so clear, so pure, it seemed to pierce my heart with some great truth, or revelation. It was a new song, a song I had never heard him sing before. Then he was silent, hunkered into his tiny body, but still alive. He made no sound as I rushed him to the vet, but he died the next day, as I knew he would.

The remembran ce of Sammy's farewell melody has stayed with me, but I could never speak of it, it was too emotional. That song said, "I forgive you, I know you tried, but here we are; don't be sad". I could never put a name to the experience until I heard Mark speak of the feelings of regret he felt coming from Connor, and I knew that what I had experienced with Sammy was not rare, or random. We share the world with these wonderful creatures; dogs, cats, birds; wild things in fact or at heart, and are privileged to be allowed into their lives. They live in the moment and connect with us in ways that are beyond our deepest knowing of ourselves. Mark and his birds have left us a legacy of love and personal fulfillment that is truly extraordinary.

6/7/07
virginia vaeth
nashville, Tn

I never write a channel, ever. But this show was one of the best shows I have ever seen. I keep replaying the sceen between Mark and the strange man and his stunted questions and how Mark calmly answers him. It is exactly how life is, in to many shows people are pressed to answer things right away, acting. In real life people pause and reflect and though it takes up air time, it is so genuine and real and one of the best sceens I have ever seen. The tall man wants to attack, he is thinking up ways to upset Mark, but Mark stands up for what he believes in, and even though they are kind of like pets. It is obvious he loves all birds, which the director adds later when he describes other birds, making us think of a large family, how you might have your favorites, you can't love any of your kids less than the others. I hope you does a ton more movies. I have another story, of a lady in rural Alabama who was a Christian and decided to write a book about Prisoners in jail unfairly. Her dealings led her to a man in jail, who she fell in love with, is so passionate about. He is a black muslim, and she is from the most racist area of Alabama, where confederate flags wave. They fell in love and got married. She drives to Nashville every month to spend three hours with him, but the most amazing thing of all, is she converted to Islam. WHen I spoke to her I find her so passionate, now after two years of being muslim, she decided to cover, and continue living in rural Alabama. The only muslim for miles it would be interesting to see how locals treat her. She told me she was in fear of revealing she was muslim, afraid of being injured. But she is a blue eyed, southern girl and from what she has told me, she has been accepted, good story, true story. I would love to see this as a film.

6/6/07
Mimi Kramer
San Diego, California

I am amazed after reading the comments on talkback, how many cities around the United States (and surely around the world) have flocks of wild parrots that thrive there. Here in San Diego, there is a wild parrot flock in the progressive community of Ocean Beach. I had no idea there were ANY others let alone so MANY others!

The most special thing about the film I think, is the under-story of Mark and Judy. How the flock led Mark to his life's quest, how Judy's life quest led her to Mark and how the two ultimately came together is just so perfect. My friend and I would call it "leyla," which is watching the hand of God at play.

6/4/07
Susanne Wahlquist
Lilburn, GA

My husband and myself (both retired biologists) enjoyed Mark's devotion to his parrots and the knowledge he gained and communicated very efficiently to all of us. Mark is a true naturalist albeit self taught from his experiences and books, more than many of those sporting degrees. Judy has truly created a work of art in film making; she should win an award. What wonderful footnotes about their marriage and return to the parrots on telegraph hill. I am so glad to see that Judy is making more films and Mark is writing about his experiences.

For Mark, just one more thought about Tupelo; what a great life you gave that special needs parrot. Yes, I believe that he was showing gratitude to you on his last day and also a "good bye". Sick animals often go off by themselves when they know they are dying and I believe that was his gift to you to save you going through his last moments so your last memories would be of him alive (anthropomorphic maybe, but so be it).

6/4/07
amy sheneman
cazenovia, ny
I totally enjoyed watching your program about the wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I laughed and cried seeing the love and compassion Mark showed for these precious birds.

I do rescue of exotic birds and currently have 14 of my own. Among them are 6 Dusky Conures, one Sun Conure and 3 Blue Crown Conures. I cried and cried for little Connor and my love for these little conures will go on forever.

Blessing in life to Mark and Judy for what they have given to the world and I pray that the people of San Francisco will realize the importance of their wild parrot flocks and protect them and cherish them forever

6/4/07
Debbie
Austin, Texas

Those birds are very special, no matter if they are or not native to the land. They should be kept alive and well by San Francisco!

6/4/07
Greta Be
Pineville, Louisiana

WOW, I saw it for the first time. Judy you are so lucky, enjoyed the stories of the parrots, but Mark if you find any more like him please let me know! I can't believe there are still men like him.

6/4/07
Emily
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I happened upon The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill late last night and was touched by Mark's story. I was also thrilled by the update on the website that Mark found his happily ever after. Great movie, beautiful scenery, wonderful people.

6/4/07
Audrey

I absolutely loved all of the presentation. Mark - whadda guy! As I watched the choice of camera angles (as it gently panned across your possessions - or lingered on you telling a heartfelt story)I was thinking - 'This film-person REALLY understands'! So, it was with great glee I watched as the slowwwwwwww scissors finally whacked away the ponytail - then, there was the splendid couple. PERFECTION! I hope the two of you will be happy and nesting for along time! What a fine way for the bird story to conclude.

6/4/07
shannon
edmond,ok

Love the show and your story. Sorry to hear about the Redtail Hawks getting some of the parrots, but such is nature.I love all birds, including the Redtails(magnificent birds) I hope they thrive!
Good luck to you both!

6/4/07
BILL FAVERO
LAYTON UT

This program is an example of the finest television has to offer. I cannnot begin to express the impact this wonderful show has had on my family. To all involved in its production and showing my heartfelt thanks.

6/4/07
Charlotte Green

For years I'd heard about parrots on Telegraph Hill in the City, and was delighted to hear of KQED,s support by way of your recient film. I didn't expect that I would be moved to tears and laughter. The two of you reminded me of the many reasons I live in the Bay Area. Also, I'm delighted that you two are a pair.

6/4/07
Donna P.
Brea CA
It's difficult to find anything on TV that interests me anymore. This film caught me and I was fascinated by it. I learned much about those beautiful birds that I hadn't known.

And Mark's comments, philosophy and emotional attachment to these birds came through on film. Quite an achievement and a great experience for this viewer.

6/4/07
Isis
Merrillville, IN

Fabulous show! Many people in my small world applauded it as well. PLEASE replay the program on PBS soon.
I truly believe animals have the ability to learn. They are not compromised by just instinct. Absolutely, the parrots of Telegraph Hill should NOT be removed from San Francisco!!!!


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