Sunday, August 21, 2005

Wild Parrots in California

I received an anonymous comment about wild parrots from a resident of Pasadena who has seen the birds in her or his tangerine tree. If anyone gets any good pictures of them, I'd love to see them.

James Gilardi, Ph.D., director of the World Parrot Trust, wrote the following about Bittner's book:

"By falling in with a flock of wild parrots, Bittner has learned more about a real parrot society than those of us studying wild or captive parrots could ever hope to learn. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill makes essential and delightful reading for anyone with an interest in the complex lives of intelligent and engaging wild animals...and inspires readers to find nature and peace in whatever place on the planet they happen to occupy."
It was difficult to put the book down last night at bed time. Having completed the first three chapters, I learned about how Mark Bittner discovered the parrots near his home in San Franciscio. He first saw them while on his knees at a house cleaning job. His life had been difficult. He'd been on the brink of suicide at one time and then had become homeless on the streets of San Francisco. He slept in shrubs and found coins dropped near parking meters with which he could purchase bread. He soon found that being homeless also made him invisible on the street. "People looked past me as though I didn't exist. But if I ever wanted a little attention, all I had to do was enter a place of business... Occasionally customers would leave behind partially uneaten meals, and ... I'd pick the food off the abandoned plates."

He says that people who gave him the most trouble were his fellow, native born Americans. "All my life I'd been treated as just another white, middle-class, regular guy; so it was a matter of disbelief for me that I was now generally despised as one of the hated homeless."

Eventually he was offered a job working for an elderly woman running errands and cleaning her home. In exchange he was given a studio apartment on Telegraph Hill. The apartment was a singe room "jerry-rigged into the lower half of what my neighbors called a cottage but was, in reality, a two-story shack." The room had been uninhabited, was filled with mold, had no insulation, no real foundation. The circuit breakers blew and the plumbing backed up but for a homeless person, it was a paradise.

Bittner's description of the parrots is enchanting. He describes them as having beaks that were comically large. "Their eyes were so expressive that even from a distance the birds struck me as personable and intelligent. There was something goofy about their eyes. It was as if they concealed the punch line to some joke."

Are you hooked yet? I hope you'll buy his book and help support this wonderfully sensitive and caring man feed his parrot friends.