These are my very first diary entries. They tell the story of one of that year’s babies, Mandela, who was injured by a cat. (The story appears in my book in the chapter titled “Mandela.”) At the time, I was caretaking a big house, which is where I was feeding the flock. Near the end of the story I move temporarily to the small studio apartment on the property that I stayed in whenever there were guests in the main house.

11/11/94 Friday

Around 3:00 while feeding the parrots I heard a loud cry from one of the parrots in extreme distress. I ran to the east balcony [separate from the fire escape, which was on the north side of the house], looked down to the garden, and saw a neighbor’s cat running away from the source of the sound. I ran down to the garden and found Mandela [one of that year’s babies] clinging to some crushed irises, beak wide open, with his wing hanging. I picked him up and put him inside my jacket. He crawled to my shoulder. I brought him up to the house. He was in shock and kept falling over to his side. He was able with difficulty to perch on the chair rungs. Accepted seeds, cracked them, but didn’t eat them. Later I took him to the living room, where he crawled up onto the foot stool. I called a vet and made an appointment for Sunday. Borrowed a cage from a neighbor. He let me stroke him softly. Scratch his neck. He was very tired and quiet. He crawled up into a corner of the cage and clung to the side with his toes and beak to sleep.

11/12/94 Saturday

He slept all night clinging to the cage. He clings to it now (7:00am). He’s quiet except for a call he put out when the flock came through. He’s a little frightened and bewildered. 7:45 He’s perched. He’s totally quiet. But looks okay. 8:10 Beak tucked under wing. He bit me hard (not viciously) broke skin. When he hears the other parrots he gets quite active. Crawls around the cage. Calls out. Poor thing. He walks around the floor ok. He wishes I’d leave him alone. He did take some seeds from me. I got him some parrot food. 

I called a wild bird expert who gave me advice on getting him back to the flock. Keep him bonded. He will have to be reacclimated. Make sure he’s ready to fly. 

He tried to squeeze through the bars and join the flock. Only time he makes sound pretty much, unless I try to grab him.

Sonny, Lucia, Chomsky and Stella [his parents and siblings] keep coming by as if they are looking for him. He gets very active every time they come. While I was feeding Chomsky I held him up to the dining room window to show Mandela. When I came back in I opened the cage door and he jumped out and he crawled around to that same window and tried desperately to break through the glass.

He got very playful (evening) and ate some sunflower seeds. Doing acrobatics around the cage. Sleeping again, clinging to the side of the cage up in a corner.

11/13/94 Sunday

He was on the perch when I took off the cover. Only took a seed or two. He started talking softly. Then I realized that he was hearing the flock. When I could hear them, he got louder and got active in the cage again trying to get out.

He is squawking a little bit.

Drinks water! 8:00am He took some parrot food from my hand.

Went to the vet. It’s probably just nerve damage. Keep him caged for two weeks.

He’s active and playful. I put him out on the balcony. The flock came and seemed slightly standoffish toward me (maybe). Sonny and Lucia obviously recognized him and stayed around as long as possible. Several times the flock left without mom and dad joining them. Mandela was well behaved.

11/14/94 Monday

Around 7:00am down on the dining room table he let out a scream. It was because Rosemary flew by the window. So he saw her and recognized her. He heard her once and called out again.

He’s talking quietly a little bit this morning.

Put him out on the east balcony in his cage before leaving for the morning. He screams a little.

When I came home, his family was on the railing of the balcony keeping him company. I took him over to the fire escape and they were all standoffish, even Chomsky, but especially Sonny. They came around though. Mandela was again calm and not frantic. I was concerned that he’s not eating much, so I called Jamie over at Spectrum [a pet bird store]. I went there and he gave me baby formula if I need it. 

Later inside I started feeding Mandela bits of the parrot food and he started taking it. Especially the banana chips. He likes the mirror in his cage.

At one point this afternoon he leaped (escaped) from his cage on the table to the dining room bench. There was an unmistakable bit of flight involved. He can now lift his (right) wing off the perch when it gets stuck.

He was extremely playful tonight climbing around and hanging from the top of the cage.

11/15/94 Tuesday

While I was feeding him at 7:00am feeding he startled me with a scream. A small group of parrots—his family. They come by every day to see him.

He doesn’t bite me anymore. I could probably make him bite–but now he prefers not to. 

Scratch his neck and back of head with tip of feather.

I left him inside because of the rain. When I did put him out Sonny and Co. were there immediately. He eats out of his dish now.

Sonny has started climbing up onto the cage for a closer look.

I showed him some photos of the flock. He looked at them intently.

He lets me stroke and play with his beak all I want. When I try to stroke his chest he flees and bites me—hard. He got out and climbed the spokes on my bike all the way to the top of the tire.

11/16/94 Wednesday

Put Mandela out before the flock arrived (on the east balcony). He started calling when he heard them arriving. His family flew directly to the balcony. The flock stopped and then left almost immediately. The family stayed behind. Sonny is the most persistent about staying nearby. They flee if I approach them on the balcony. Sonny was a little more trusting of me yesterday. He took some seeds from my hand.

If I’m very slow and careful he lets me scratch some of his neck. He let me scratch the back of his head a little. I put him up in the bedroom while I was downstairs. He kept knocking his mirror to the cage floor—and I wonder if it was to get me up there since he knows I always come to put it back up.

11/17/94 Thursday

Raining and cold today. He was sweet and quiet till the flock flew over the house. Brief eruption of screaming.

I took him downstairs and set him out on my porch. [My original studio apartment on the Greenwich Steps, which I still stayed in occasionally, although I was mostly caretaking the big house.] Sonny flew to the wires just above to look down on him. Later I went back up to the main house. Sonny and Lucia saw me in the kitchen, so they flew to the fire escape. That being fruitless, they went around to the balcony.

11/18/94 Friday

Tonight he stood on one leg for the first time that I’ve seen.

Dante flew down to my deck this afternoon. When I left to get him some seeds he flew away.

11/19/94 Saturday

Let Mandela out of his cage this morning. He flies a little. Seems ok. The wing still droops. He can fly at least 8 feet. He knows he can’t fly too much, mostly he walks and perches. He’s hit the window a few times. It didn’t hurt him. He wasn’t going fast enough.

He spent most of the day walking and flying around the room. Great climber, even climbs slippery metal surfaces.

11/20/94 Sunday

Sonny and Lucia come by yet again this morning. I’m still in the Greenwich Steps studio apartment.

I’m letting him out a lot this morning.

Built him a rope gym.

He was sitting in the window sill and Sonny flew right to the window. He found no place to perch and went back up to the telephone lines. Later he came back down and perched on the sill!

I was sitting in the window to prevent him from trying to fly through it. He came anyway, hit my hand, the glass, then landed on my shoulder. Climbed around on me undisturbed by the fact.

Climbed straight up the slick metal of the center window frame.

11/21/94 Monday

He lets me stroke the top of his head a little now.

He’s very quiet this morning. Didn’t even call out when the flock flew by.

He likes his ropes.

The flock came by again before I left this morning and he got quite active.

Tonight he did more substantial flying than he’s been doing. From place to place. He flew the length of the room. From one lamp to another.

11/22/94 Tuesday

Sonny still dropping by.

Mandela knows what the gloves are for. I open the cage first thing in the morning. He flies directly to his ropes. 

He has begun maneuvering in flight a little. Hovering then changing direction.

Seems to prefer sitting on the lamp above the “desk”.

Every night we go through this thing where I have to chase him down to put him in the cage. But he doesn’t hold it against me in the end.

11/23/94 Wednesday

Sonny came down to the balcony railing this morning. (Studio apartment.)

Mandela is letting me stroke him a little more. Top of the head and lightly on the chest. But he gets feisty too.

He escaped. [I’d left him outside in his cage and he figured out how to open one of the food dish wells.] Flying well! But that wing is still real droopy. We’ll see. He took off with the family.

11/24/94 Thursday (Thanksgiving)

Sonny and the rest showed up looking for Mandela. Don’t believe he made it.

11/27/94 Sunday

He’s back! It was raining and I had what I assumed was Chomsky sitting on my hand eating out of the cup. I was so busy with 13 birds in front of me that I didn’t have the time to take a close look. As the birds started to leave I took the time to talk to Chomsky and suddenly realized  that it was Mandela. I was thrilled. So happy, laughing. He was talking it up too. He seemed pleased that I was so happy to see him. We rubbed noses. I couldn’t take the cold anymore and he flew off as I tried to move him to my other hand.

8 Comments

  1. Mark, This is fabulous! 20 years ago your movie changed my worldview and my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I grew up an ultra conservative Texan who thought the world was there to serve ME. Through your film I saw compassion, concern, and, yes, even love towards animals that I’d never seen before. Taking care of them for their good, but getting great joy and satisfaction for yourself. It was the beginning of my love for backyard bird watching, feeding, and observing. What a great peace and joy these little creatures bring to my life. I look forward to reading many more excerpts from your diary.

    1. Author

      I’m sorry I missed this when I first approved it. That is, I didn’t read it carefully. I have three major projects going on. Too much sometimes. Thank you for writing this. Since I was a young boy I’ve wanted to make some kind of difference in the world. That got kicked out of me somewhat until I encountered the parrots. It’s a difficult time. I retain some hope that we’ll get through this.

      1. I share in your hope, my friend. As I continue to read your journal entries I look back at fond memories and look forward to a kinder, gentler world. Peace and love.

  2. This is a wonderful read, Mark!!! I am transfixed!!! Thank you so much for providing me with the pleasure of perusing your notes. It is a much welcome respite during a busy day. Mikaela

  3. That was fun to read. I was so glad when he came back! Birds are my favorite creatures.

  4. Hi Mark,
    So glad that you are posting these pages from your diary. You relationship with the wild parrots remains etched in the hearts of so many of us. There are new audiences out there today who need to see these. I hope they do!! Thanks for sharing these precious memories!
    Best always to you and Judy,
    Roberta

  5. Thank you for sharing these diary entries and for devoting a whole section of your website to them. I hope there will be many more. ‘Wild Parrots’ was a book of such importance for its rich insight into the individual personalities of these birds — a revelation of their *personhood* — as well as for your understanding of their community. It’s a remarkable testament to your patient observation, compassion and empathy, a work that both exemplifies citizen science at its best and transcends it.

  6. Mark,
    Thank you for posting some of your old parrot diaries. I remember the stories from your book I read so many years ago when I just moved to the SF peninsula from Alaska.
    Through the years, since then, each time I came to SF I’d listen and look up to the trees is I heard parrots noises. Recently we moved to the top of Telegraph Hill and am delighted as I hear their squawking as they rush by at the start and end of the each day.
    – Susan

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