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The Parrots of Telegraph Hill—A splendid pandemonium

in Classic San Francisco, FREE and Budget, From the Mobile App, Kid-Friendly, Nature & Parks

San Francisco Parrots (Photo © Ingrid Taylar via Creative Commons)

The first rays of morning sunlight brighten Coit Tower, and a splendid pandemonium erupts: the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill take flight, circling in a cacophony of wings and squawks. The flock began with a single breeding pair of cherry-headed conures in the early 1990s, and has since grown to more than 200 individuals.

Telegraph Hill resident Mark Bittner became fascinated with the birds in 1993 and began observing them and making notes, eventually publishing a book called (appropriately) The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . with Wings. Bittner’s (now) wife Judy Irving produced a documentary with the same title in 2005.

Cherry-headed conures are native to a small area of South America, but these escapees and their descendants live quite comfortably in San Francisco, feeding on fruits, pine nuts, and cherry blossoms. (Please don’t feed these birds; god gave them very sharp beaks for a reason.)

The lush gardens of Telegraph Hill provide plenty of food and nesting habitat, but the parrots can also be seen along the Embarcadero and as far west as Aquatic Park. Look for them wherever trees are fruiting.

Did you know: A second, unrelated group of feral parrots lives near Potrero Hill.

Parrots of Telegraph HillRead all about it: New York Times bestselling book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . with Wings chronicles Mark Bittner’s life with these comical and demanding birds. I love Eric Williams’ review of the book on Amazon, which says, in part, “I want to mention in particular the chapter entitled, “Tupelo,” which is the strongest testament to the worth and complexity of human-animal bonds that I have ever read. Some reviews have spoken of the power of Tupelo’s story and its ability to alter the reader’s perception of animals, and I thoroughly concur with that assessment. I ended this chapter in awe.”

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