Review: Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003)

A few years ago, I was walking by myself through the neighborhoods of San Fransisco when I encountered a flock of brightly colored, loudly squawking parrots. They completely took me by surprise. You just don’t expect to see birds like this in the city, outside of the zoo or a bird cage. It was a wonderful surprise and a high point to my afternoon, a moment I vividly remember to this day.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a close encounter with the famous parrots of Telegraph Hill. When I learned last year of a documentary about these birds and the homeless man who cares for them I made a point of seeking it out and I’m very glad I did.

Homeless musician Mark Bittner formed a special bond with this flock of cherry-headed conures which he took upon himself to feed and care for over the years. Judy Irving’s documentary tells his story, and by association the stories of individual birds in the flock.

This is an unusual urban wildlife tale intertwined with a personal story about a guy who in many ways is as out of place in the city as these non-native parrots. Birders and non-birders alike should enjoy this winning documentary.

Great word of mouth kept this independent documentary in circulation around the
country much of the year, where it appeared to rave reviews. It’s out on DVD December 26th.

In the meantime, you can visit Bittner’s website, the Parrot Pages. [**** out of 5]

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