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The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story . . . with Wings Paperback – January 25, 2005
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Mark was given a gift. A gift to see, observe, and interact with a wild flock of parrots, and through this exchange come to an understanding of the nature of reality. I know this sounds deep, and maybe even far fetched, but that is what happened!
The beautiful thing is, the book doesn't beat you over the head with this. In fact I had no idea that this was going to be the theme of the story until I got into one of the last chapters. Because really, the book is about a wild flock of birds. About how Mark went about observing them, his growing emotional attachment to them, and his methods used to gather all the information he could about these parrots.
But that was all just a means to an end; although it was a beautiful and often touching means that kept me fascinated through the entire read. It is the purpose Mark found following these means through to their intended end that makes this book so profound, and so much more that merely a study of parrots.
In closing I would say if you happen to have a bird as a pet and haven't read this book, you are missing a fabulous opportunity to increase your understanding about the relationship you are having with your bird. It is a very useful and practical book in that way.
genres of fiction and non-fiction that I read, but it's really not that different. It's a glimpse of one man
who finds himself connected to the world around him in a way that few of us get to experience. Not
because we can't, but because we think we don't want to. Or need to. Sad.