The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Posted by barb on Apr 3, 2005 in Movies |

4/5 stars

San Francisco is home to a flock of wild parrots and Mark Bittner, an out-of-work musician, has befriended them. He is careful to point out that he does not “take care of them” — they are wild, and can care for themselves — but he does feed them, and takes in any of the sick members long enough for them to heal.

While Bittner does not describe himself as an eccentric, all the trappings are there — he has no visible means of support, and yet he has a constant influx of seed for the flock, a computer to record a diary of the flock, and a camera to photograph their comings-and-goings. He has sworn not to cut his hair until he has a girlfriend (not the best strategy, if you ask me). He doesn’t pay rent, though the “landlords” hesitate to call him a squatter.

Throughout the film, we get a picture of the flock and the members, all of whom Bittner has named and can distinguish by small markings. No one knows how the flock started, but certainly it was a pair of pet parrots who either escaped or were released. Many new members of the flock were also captive at one time, but there have also been many new babies born into the flock. At the time of the filming, there were about 45 parrots in the flock.

One of the most striking things for me were the shots of the parrots flying together as a flock. The picture that I usually have of parrots is that of a lone parrot in a cage or in a house. But parrots really are social animals, and seeing them fly together was breath-taking.

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