Book Cover

Film Poster


The Parrot Pages

From October, 1993 through September, 1999 my life was wholly taken over by my fascination with the flock of wild parrots that flies the northeast waterfront area of San Francisco (and, these days, points beyond). When I first started seeing the parrots, everybody called them the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. At the time, I knew as little as anybody, so I called them that, too. Eventually I learned that Telegraph Hill was only a place that they foraged in. They neither slept nor nested here. But the name stuck, and that's what they're called today.

During my time with the parrots, I kept detailed notes on my day-to-day experiences. My purpose was not scientific, but simply to record—for my own pleasure—the magical experiences I was having. I was hungry to learn everything I could about the parrots—not as objects of a study, but in a spirit of friendship. I learned a great deal, ending up with a type-written diary of more than 1500 pages. About halfway through the six years I spent with the flock, I decided to write a book. And during my last year with them, I cooperated in the making of Judy Irving's documentary film.

There was a period of time that I thought the parrots would be a lifelong study. I intended to mine that diary and post my findings on this web site. But that was a misunderstanding of the purpose of my involvement with the birds. I still make sure that they are not being abused. But they are wild creatures, and they don't need my or anybody else's help in being wild. If they did, they wouldn't be wild. That was the point of the title of the book and film.

So, I've moved on with my life, and my original intention for these pages—born when I was still high on what I'd learned—has lost a lot of juice. I'm working on another book that's on an entirely different subject, and it takes up all my time and all my mind. Still, I'm not abandoning the Parrot Pages. I'm just altering their scope and their purpose. Since I don't feed them anymore, these pages will deal with the flock's origins and early history.

I get a lot of email with questions about the flock. Sometimes I want to say, "the answer is in my book." I spent years working on that book so that people could have their questions answered. I'm not insisting that anybody read it. But if you want a detailed understanding of something, that's the place to go to. (It's not difficult to find. It did well, and it's distributed by Random House.) Because I want to get this new version of my web site up sooner rather than later, I am, for the time being, pulling down the old pages. I have to reformat them and change some details. Slowly, I'll repost the essential parts. I do have a new version of the FAQ up now. I intend to put up a photo gallery, biographies of some of the more well-known and beloved flock members, as well as more detailed background material, a section that I call InDepth. I can't say when this will all happen. Work on the new book, Street Song, comes first. But, in the meantime, if you need to know something deeper about the parrots than what's here, and it's really, really important, you might look for a copy of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

—Mark Bittner. December 8, 2008