by Mark Bittner
After reading a novel that featured the wild parrots in San Francisco -Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots- I was delighted to finally read a true account of these birds. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is the story of one man's relationship with these birds, mostly cherry-headed conures, which have established themselves in the city. Bittner was living in a studio apartment on Telegraph Hill when he first began to take an interest in the small parrots. He started feeding them at regular times, gradually getting the flock used to his presence until he could stand outside on the balcony, with birds eating from his hand and perched on his shoulders. The more he observed the birds, the more he wanted to know about them. He gave them names, sorted out some of their relationships, and rescued ones that were injured or sick, nursing them back to health in his home. He began asking around about the parrots, trying to learn more about the origins of the flock. Surprised to find that no one was studying the conures (and many people wanted them eradicated because they are non-natives), Bittner began taking detailed notes himself on their behavior, and after six years had become something of a local authority on the birds. He gave slide shows and lectures, and after the book was published, pushed to get legislation passed to protect the birds. His book is a wonderful read full of details about the parrots' distinct personalities. It's also a story of the author's own search for meaning in his life, for stability (in his early years in San Francisco he was homeless), spirituality and love.
You can read more about Mark Bittner and the parrots on his website. There's some gorgeous photos there, too.
I borrowed this book from the public library.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 288 pages, 2004
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