The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The wild parrots of Telegraph Hill rose to fame in 2003 when a documentary was released about the flock and their unofficial caretaker, Mark Bittner. Bittner was living in an apartment on exclusive Telegraph Hill rent-free in San Francisco at the time. The birds are officially known as Mitred parakeets or Mitred Conures. They are part of the parrot species.

Bittner's interactions with the birds are both amusing and heartwarming. Today the wild parrots have migrated to cover many neighborhoods in San Francisco including nearby suburbs.


About the Parrots

  • The San Francisco flock
  • The documentary
  • The Parrots extend their reach

The San Francisco flock

It is not clear as to exactly when the San Francisco flock of birds originally appeared. It is thought that they came over on a ship or were escaped pets in the early 1990s. The original red-headed conures were said to have bred with a mitred conure female in 1995. The offspring were both red-headed and blue-headed birds. One blue-headed bird in particular, named Connor, is featured in the documentary, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” The birds are not thought to migrate and remain in the area year-round. The flock does break down into smaller groups during breeding season.

The documentary

The documentary film, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” came out in 2003. Julie Irving directed it. She also produced it, did the cinematography and edited the movie. The film was one of the top 25 grossing documentaries ever released theatrically. In 2007 it became nationally known when it was broadcast on the PBS series, “Independent Lens.” Individual donors funded the movie project privately. Chris Michie, who was a guitarist with Van Morrisson, wrote the music from the film. Unemployed at the time, Bittner used his resources and skills well to interact with and write about the birds.

Bittner also published the book, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” It was based upon a 1500-page diary he kept about the time he spent with the flock.

The Parrots extend their reach

Now the wild parrots can be seen all over San Francisco. The original flock has extended its reach to many of the city's neighborhoods and the suburbs. An article in The Huffington Post includes video of the birds as far away as Brisbane, Ca. to the south. There are thought to be at least 200 birds total actually in San Francisco today.

In addition to the original flock of about 100 birds, there are actually several populations today. The wild parrots can also be found in both cities of Palo Alto and Sunnyvale in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill are amazing birds and their story is just as impressive. Their red or blue heads and brightly colored green body feathers really stand out against the often foggy, grey background of San Francisco. Look for them next time you pay a visit to San Francisco and listen for their distinctive cackle coming from the nearby treetops.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill:

Mitred Parakeet

Mark Bittner - The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill Spread To San Francisco Suburbs


Image cc Wikimedia Commons

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