From Publishers Weekly
In this appealing, heartfelt account of one man's attempt to bond with wildlife, the author tells how he made friends with a flock of birds and in the process found meaning in his own life. In the early 1990s, Bittner, a 42-year-old who was still living like a "dharma bum," discovered that there were wild parrots in the trees and on the power lines near the house he was caretaking on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. Having nothing else to do, he decided to feed the birds on his fire escape and occupy his time by observing them. Soon they appeared every day, noisily demanding seeds, and for the next few years, he devoted most of his time to the wily and comical birds, which turned out to be cherry-headed and blue-crowned conures-escapees that originally had been caught in South America-and their progeny. Crowds gathered outside his house to see him with the parrots perched on his arms and head taking seeds from his hands, and he became famous as "the birdman of Telegraph Hill." Because he found that each bird had its own personality, he named them according to their individual characteristics, and in this charming record of their activities, they seem almost human. At a time when he lived like a hermit, the birds brought him joy and became his only friends. It's a bittersweet story-that is, until a documentary filmmaker shows up at his doorstep. Photos not seen by PW.
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Bittner moved to San Francisco in search of himself. Like many in the early '70s, he tried many pathways--Taoism, the Beats--and lived hand to mouth working odd jobs. A period of homelessness came to an end when he was hired to help an elderly woman. With the job came an apartment, a garden, and parrots. Cherry-headed and blue-headed conures (small South American parrots) formed a wild flock of some 20 birds that lived in the neighborhood. As Bittner became more and more fascinated with the parrots, he began to feed them, and this growing intimacy led to naming the birds and following their relationships. The birds eventually learned to trust him, and his involvement with them led to minor fame in the neighborhood. When a documentary filmmaker arrived to do a story on the Birdman of Telegraph Hill, romance bloomed. This lovely book on finding one's way through interacting with parrots will be very popular among animal-loving readers. Nancy Bent
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